By Michelle Mantor, Pettalk Editor

Day 2 in Camelid (llama and alpaca) training in Banner Elk, NC at Apple Hill Farm was another extraordinarily beautiful and sunny day atop this rural mountain with great views all the way to Boone, NC! Definitely a great place to come for the workshop. We gathered in the barn again for classroom instruction and a recap of yesterday’s work. With our catching stick and string, we practiced our skills from the previous day on our “training aid inflatables”. I must say that the art of catching a camelid safely and without any trauma to the animals is rather like a dance. It’s a technique of approach, giving the animal the idea of an “escape route” in the catch pen and once settled, approaching them with the equipment but not just snaring them – it is more of a conversation of moving into the animal’s side and if they are ok with it, come closer; if no, back up a bit. I really appreciate that we are being taught to listen to the animal and give them some say-so!

We next moved on to a very intricate way of handling our rope right down to which fingers to use at what point. Feeling uncoordinated would be an understatement because spatial work with ropes isn’t my forte – but I eventually was able to secure the rope/clasp as instructed around the animal’s neck, reach in my pocket with one hand, bring out a halter and begin another round of intricate movements to get the halter on what I would call a “reluctant” animal, have it fit properly (all while not losing the rope), and then detach the rope and secure a lead rope. Now..this sounds simple but it ain’t LOL! I still did not have it down smoothly when we left and tomorrow I’ll be working to smooth out the details and become quicker in the skills. We are also learning clicker training tomorrow!

Another portion of the class was about animal husbandry. I am accustomed to dogs, cats, horses…but I must say camelids are quite different. They are fiber animals and must be shorn once per year. For a skittish animal that is intrinsically shy of humans and doesn’t want to be touched (we learned to incorporate T-Touch in our handling), imagine how that process would go if you don’t have a trusting relationship and ethical handling skills with your animal. We discussed techniques for shearing day, parasite control which is a big part of husbandry with these guys, and barn/fencing set up. More on that later but having a catch pen and way to corral the animals to the catch pen is a requirement or you will be chasing an uncatchable animal around your property – might make a good Tik Tok but probably wouldn’t be too fun you the catcher!

The animals we got to work with were adorable as you will see in the photos and they are always kept in the catch pens with “buddies” for support. You will also see our instructor, Marty, in the photos in the purple shirt. She is so full of knowledge – after 30+ years in the industry, she has seen it all and perfected her techniques down to the exact finger being used; she demonstrated her full technique of haltering from catching to relaxing and it was so SMOOTH! I guess that’s why she is renowned in the field of camelids and she has also developed some very useful equipment that I will be purchasing tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to clicker training – this technique can be used on any animal so it’s quite a useful skill! Day 3 is the final day of our adventure so stay tuned for more!