10 Steps to successful showing…
By Julie Taylor-Browne of CamelidSense.
I like the show season. It is nice to get out and train the little ones and share with them the delight in being brave, learning new skills and going on new adventures with their little friends. What I don’t like is seeing alpacas being confused, unsure, unhappy and being panicked, dragged around or pushed when they refuse to move. None of us want to do this to our alpacas, but these unwanted outcomes often occur through lack of time, facilities and/or our skills.
I remember the first time I had to load some alpacas I had sold. One of them refused to load and I had to push/lift/shove her into the trailer. She was unhappy and confused and I was in tears. It was probably at that moment when I vowed to learn more about how to work with camelids so this never, ever happened again.
So here for you is a bit of the wisdom I learned along my TTeam/Camelidynamics/CamelidSense journey!
1. Halter fit
A correctly fitting halter that relies on the crown piece – the part of the halter which goes around the back of the head (and not an over-tightened nose band) to keep the noseband back in the safe place on the nose bone, just in front of the eye. If the halter isn’t held in the correct place it will slip forward on the nose bone onto the cartilage and convince the animal that it is going suffocate – thus causing it to act out in an effort to escape from its halter. Marty McGee Bennett1 once wrote an article on this topic called something like ‘Major Behavioural Changes in 30 seconds’, because it can make that much difference.
Nowadays in the UK, thankfully, ring stewards are more aware of the effect of a badly fitting halter and will often insist on either adjustments or the replacement of a halter before the alpaca is allowed in the ring. Just to be clear, to keep the noseband from slipping forward, tighten the crown piece, having first loosened the noseband to allow it to move closer to the eye. I have found that Zephyr halters are the most adjustable halters and best fitting halters.
2. Leading lightly from the front
Teaching your alpacas to lead properly makes a huge difference. I see too many alpacas in the show ring that don’t lead particularly well, jogging along in front of the handler, or lagging behind and having to be pulled along. I also occasionally see alpacas being walked with much too short a lead rope and ending up with its nose on the handler’s shoulder/armpit/elbow. This makes it hard for the judge to assess how they move and their conformation. Those who walk well, with self-carriage and who show themselves off so much better, automatically have an advantage over those that don’t. Clip your lead rope to the most forward part of the most forward ring on the noseband (usually the ring on the left side of the alpacas face) and not the ring underneath the chin and you will find leading much easier, as will your alpaca, as you will be able to make smaller, clearer signals.