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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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
and beautician Susan is pictured working on her alpaca’s head and pondering on
using such techniques on her human clients !
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Peter, proudly holding a haltered alpaca, remarked that it was stress free,
working with alpacas this way.
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.
feeling was one of new or increased confidence in working with alpacas and
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.
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.”
alpacas on leads in an open area was the next achievement.
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
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.
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.”
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