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see West Melton

Alpaca Articles

Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.

They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines in New Zealand, Australia, UK, and USA and also through articles on this website and other websites.

Click here for more articles  
  The Camelidynamics Way

By Linda Blake of Southern Alpacas Stud

 

The dynamics of handling your alpaca (or llama) is so much easier when you have attended a Camelidynamics Course. Your eyes are opened as to how your camelid thinks and hence reacts. And you can then choose to work with your alpaca or llama in a different way.

The guru of Camelidynamics is Marty McGee Bennett, an effervescent American. For years she has been touring the world with her method of working with camelids, rather than against them. Demand for her skills and methods exceeded her days available, and Marty began to train other practitioners in her ways.

In New Zealand, this challenge was taken on by Vicky Tribe, an alpaca breeder from Pukekohe. Vicky attended many training clinics, in Australia and USA, and is now the only qualified practitioner in the country. Her animal handling skills have been honed by working with Marty, and she is able to clearly impart to people the way to best handle their camelid.

 

The guiding principles of Camelidynamics are that it is kind, respectful, effective and fun. Vicky ran two training days in Canterbury, and these photos are from the training clinic held at Southern Alpacas Stud.
 

 

Day One

Day One began with an introduction to how alpacas (and llamas) think and react, and hence where to position one’s body when in close proximity to them. The test came once outside and in a small pen with two alpacas – getting the alpacas to move around the pen, merely by the position of one’s body.

Karen, a high country merino and alpaca farmer, commented “There is a subtlety to leading the movement with one’s body position. There is no force – it is all to do with physics.”

Camelidynamics is also about trust, and a close encounter with the alpaca includes friendly touch. Certain ways of stroking and fondling the head (called “body work”) relax the alpaca and calm them.

Alpaca breeder and beautician Susan is pictured working on her alpaca’s head and pondering on using such techniques on her human clients !

 

 

Haltering

Halter fitting is the next step, and this is practiced on an alpaca model first. Peter and Karen have correct halter fitting mastered on a model.

Halter fitting is very important. Alpacas and llamas have to be able to breathe through their nose and their mouth, and they have a very short nose bone.

Halters need to fit well, be snug, and sit close up to the eyes and high on the nose so the camelid can breathe.

A halter that has several points of adjustment provides a better fit. Always check the halter fitting after the initial10 minutes of wear.

Alpaca caught, halter fitted, and it is time to attach the lead rope. One law of camelidynamics follows physics – “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Pull steadily on an alpaca or llama, and he will pull steadily back.” It is a balance of ‘ask and lighten’ - tension on the lead rope, then relaxing the tension.

Working in the pens on a halter and lead gives both human and camelid a safe area to get started. It is easier for the camelid to walk along the long side of a pen, as they have an open view of where to go, rather than along a short side which appears to be a blocked exit.

 

 

Farmer Peter, proudly holding a haltered alpaca, remarked that it was stress free, working with alpacas this way.

"Being a new alpaca owner, I’m really pleased I came. It has given me a few ideas to take away and put into practice when working with my alpacas.”

By the end of Day One the humans had definitely learned more about handling camelids.

Generally the feeling was one of new or increased confidence in working with alpacas and llamas.

 

Alpaca breeder and teacher Steve likened it to school, challenging his habits, and learning another way of interacting with his learners – in this case, his alpacas. He liked the phrase that the human is learning about the handling, and the alpaca is learning and being trained. 

 

 

Day Two

At the start of Day Two Susan reported that she had gone home and “looked at my alpacas with new eyes, and a new confidence that we could work together.”

Walking alpacas on leads in an open area was the next achievement.

One’s body position, the correct tension on the lead, which is attached to a well-fitted halter, and the pairs of alpaca and handler were away. When starting camelid lead walking, it is helpful to have two people and two camelids, for company and reassurance (of both animals and humans).

Sue and Karen looked pleased with themselves and the alpacas seemed happy to be out walking as well!

 

  More challenges

The challenge was increased with guiding one’s alpaca around a maze and obstacle course. The white wand is used as a guide for the alpaca to follow, and to indicate to the alpaca where to go, and when to stop. Although it was only white pipe lengths on the ground, it was a great way for the alpacas to learn what was required of them. They had to negotiate corners, turns, and stop and start on command.
 

 
 
The next step was literally up – over jumps. Alpacas are clever, and initially just walked around the end of the jump their handler had stepped over ! So we had to increase the length of the jump for the alpaca to decide not to go around, but to choose to go over.
 

Finale

The finale of the day was a mock Show, with alpaca judge Nic Cooper giving the handlers a brief outline of what to do in the Show Ring, and what judges are looking for in the alpaca. “Conformation is 60% of the marks, so ensure your alpaca is standing well and has a proud stance. A quiet and well behaved alpaca is easier for a judge to then feel and assess the fleece, which carries 35% of the marks.”

The last reminder for participants comes from the Camelidynamics workbook – “whether your animals decide to trust you is not dependant on how many hours you can spend in the barn, but rather how you behave while you are there.”

 

Updated Oct 2012

Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz