Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Haltering in Sessions

We break up halter training into sessions. We have learned that it can be a difficult process for some alpacas, so we have to take it slow. We can't expect them to walk across the pasture the first time. I have tried it different ways, and found that doing more sessions, but shorter sessions, to be most useful. In time, the alpacas get so used to being caught and haltered that it's second nature to them. This makes an alpaca show much less stressful for them. Our goal this year is to halter them three or four times a week through show season. In no time they will be walking like pros.

Session One ~ desensitizing

Session one is all about getting them used to the feel of haltering. We put the halter on them and let them get used to the feel of it. I try to leave the halter on for a few minutes (even 5 minutes to a newbie feels like forever).

We also do touch them all over their blanket and into their legs. They have to be used to the vet, color check person, and judge touching them.

Session Two ~ steps and staying still

For the next session we do the same as the first, as far as getting the halter on, letting them get used to the feel, and desensitizing with touch.

We move on to:
~ having them take a few steps (even if they are side steps or trying to get away steps while on the lead)
~ taking a walk in a circle (which at this point means we walk in a circle and the alpaca pivots, but at least they will have to move their feet, sometimes even that can be tricky),
~ and start practicing standing still.

It wasn't until after our second show season that I realized I never practiced standing still, yet there is a lot of that at shows (waiting for the class, standing in the class etc.). The ability to stand still is as important at the ability to walk.

Session Three ~ walking with a friend

For this session we link a newbie with an experienced walker and have them walk around together. Last year we link Twilight to her mom, Maddie, and her mom showed her how to walk on lead.

We also go back over all the things from session one and two. For the ones ready, we will attempt some walking on their own.

Session Four ~ walking

By Session four many of the alpacas are able to walk a short distance on the lead. This is where the individual alpaca's personality really shows though. Some alpacas are so stubborn, others take to haltering easily. Last year by this point Twilight could walk on lead quite well. Challenger did the slump and lay on the ground play. Given the different personalities, we start working with each individual. We go back to use any of the past tricks that worked (such as linking them to a friend if that seemed most helpful, or doing the circle step).

Session Four and Beyond ~ repeat again

By this point, so much depends on each individual alpaca and how well they are talking to haltering. Some do so well, others really struggle. We taylor what we do with them to how they are reacting. Last year I had to incorporate many tricks to get Challenger to walk on lead. He sure was a tricky one.

We do a lot of repeating what we've done. Alpacas love routine and expect the same thing. If we can get haltering to be routine, they do so much better.

We do mock show rings, lots of mock show rings, so the routine is very familiar to them.

We add in new things, just to continue to desensitize them. For example, we work on walking in different places, like a walk down our driveway (taking them out of their comfortable pasture area). We keep going back to desensitizing, touching them all over, standing still, and walking. If they can handle our doing this, they can hand an alpaca show.

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