Monday, June 18, 2012

Llama Biography #6: Little May Flowers

I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures when I'm out doing things with the llamas, but I'm really going to try harder!  Until I have some cool new pictures to talk about, I'll share another of our wonderful llamas with you.

Little May Flowers, Spring 2005.

The sixth llama to join our herd was Little May Flowers, aka May.  She was the first cria born on our farm.  April (Alder Crest April Showers) gave birth to May on May 9th, 2000.  We came home after school that night and found May laying in the poop pile!  She started off looking a little rough, but she quickly grew into a gorgeous little girl.  She had the most gorgeous fiber too!

Little May Flowers, Summer 2000.

May's dam, Alder Crest April Showers.

May's sire, Taj's California Sun.

May wearing a bandana, Summer 2000.

May's gorgeous locked fiber, Spring 2005.

May was also the first cria that I got to train from the very beginning.  Luckily I had learned a lot about training with Sheba, so May got off to a good start.  Once May was a year old, I showed her in 4-H and open shows.  We did pretty well together, especially the second year.

May's first show, Spring 2001.  We won Showmanship!

May's first show, wearing her gypsy costume.  We won the class too!

May and I at the 2002 Indy Open show.  We won Showmanship and placed well in performance.

Another costume...May was such a good sport!  Summer 2002.

May and I after winning Showmanship at the 2002 Indiana State Fair!

May and I at the 2002 Great Lakes Regional.  We were 2nd in Showmanship!

Once May was 2.5 yrs old, we decided to retire her from showing and let her be a mom.  We bred her to a beautiful white male (SHAG Guido), and 11 months later she gave us a little boy, Autumn Hill's Blazing Starr.  May wasn't real sure about being a mom for a few days and we had to bottle feed Blaze, but she caught on eventually.  Blaze went on to grow into one of the nicest crias we've ever had.  His little sister gave him a run for his money though!  Autumn Hill's Trillium, sired by our (then) new herdsire Randallama's Cherokee, was a fabulous little girl.  We bred May one more time, this time to our younger herdsire, AAL Navarro.  We were a little disappointed with the resulting cria, Autumn Hill's Camissia, but she grew up quite nice.  Shortly after Camissia was born, we sold May and Camissia to be alpaca guards.  May was bred back to Cherokee, and had another gorgeous little boy.  I'm still sad that I sold her!

May's first cria, Autumn Hill's Blazing Starr.  Winter 2003.

May's second cria, Autumn Hill's Trillium.  Fall 2005.

May and Trillium.  Talk about a carbon copy!

May's third cria, Autumn Hill's Camissia.

May and her final cria.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Halter Training

I've been busy playing with the llamas for the past few weeks, and have completely forgotten my blog!  But I'm back, and thought I would talk a bit about halter training, since that's what I've been doing with our new cria, Kara.

Most people tend to wait til the cria is 3-6 months old to halter train, but I've always had better luck starting much earlier.  I like to start at 1-2 weeks of age, and always go slow.  Crias that young don't have much of an attention span, but they're usually very willing and absorb training like a little sponge!

Autumn Hill's Trillium, Catastrophie, and Inali, with Inali's dam, Alder Crest April Showers, in the background.  All 3 crias were halter and performance trained at an early age, and Inali went on to be a Performance Champion in 4-H.
First I start just letting the cria wear the halter around the pasture, not bothering to attach a lead rope.  Make sure to use a tiny cria halter- a halter that is too large can pose a hazard to the cria.  Most crias will shake their head and not move much at first.  I usually wait until the cria is walking around and behaving normally (trying to graze or nurse is a good sign that they are comfortable with the halter on) before taking the halter off.  Repeat this as many times as possible, leaving the halter on for 5-15 minutes, until the cria is completely comfortable wearing the halter.

Autumn Hill's Karakoram wearing her halter for the first time.  1 week of age.
Next I'll start leading the cria around with the mom.  The cria will want to follow its mom, so it won't fight the pressure on the lead.  I usually only do this once or twice, but would do it more if the next step didn't go well.  Again, limit this to 5-15 minutes of training.

SHAG Cattera and her 3 month old son Autumn Hill's Catallegre walking around the front yard. 
Then I will start taking the cria out on their own.  I like to start just by walking the cria around the pasture they are in, so that I'm not adding more stress by putting them in a new environment.  I usually will walk 1-2 laps around the pasture, depending on their behavior.  Repeat this until the cria knows to follow you and will respond to gentle pressure on the lead rope.

Little May Flowers sporting a bandanna (training for a later costume).  2 months of age.
And finally you can take the cria on walks in new environments.  Start slowly, and never have the cria out more than 15 minutes at a time.  You can start teaching the cria to stand still as well.

Autumn Hill's Charity expertly standing to have her picture taken.  1 month of age.

Once the cria is walking well on lead and responding as an adult would, there's no reason you can't start with more advanced training.  I have obstacle trained crias as early as 2 weeks of age!  A well behaved, halter-trained cria is going to be safer if you take them off the farm for any reason- I've safely taken 2 week old crias to shows and to other farms (to rebreed their moms).  Crias put up much less of a fight when they are trained at a younger age, and typically become better behaved adults.

Overman Bluff & Fluff and her 3 month old cria, Autumn Hill's Rainier, at the 2009 Indiana State Fair.  Rainier showed in 2 classes with Bluff at the show, including costume where he wore a modified dog pack.  Rainier has since gone on to place well in huge novice performance classes for his new owner.

Oh, and last but not least, I took a video of Kara during her first halter session.