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How to halter break your show alpacas

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Halter Training

Preparation for halter training begins at an early age. Early handling of crias for daily weighing, and health checks begins building trust with the alpaca. Building trust, however, does not mean constantly hugging, or touching your crias. They must not be imprinted on humans, i.e. first and foremost they need to realize that they are alpacas and part of the herd, not pets. Alpacas that are overly imprinted on people are more likely to spit at humans, and males are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior as they would toward other male alpaca competitors.

With that said, we usually begin actual on-halter training after 3 months of age, and before weaning. Initial sessions must be short and will only get the cria used to having a halter on their face, and not being able to walk away from you. Crias will jump, refuse to move their heads, and often flop on the ground and play dead. Keep early training sessions to 10-15 minutes. As the training progresses, take the cria away from the other alpacas so the cria can concentrate on the task at hand. We find that removing them from their familiar surroundings enables the animal to focus more on what they are being taught.

At first, any forward movement is helpful even if the alpaca is choosing the direction. Then work on steering them the way you want them to go, starting and stopping at your signal, holding their heads and bodies the way that they should. Keep in mind the signals that you are giving to the learning alpaca. Constant pulling on the lead is likely to have an alpaca that is leaning away from you the entire time or turning towards you to try and release the pressure. If the alpaca is doing the right thing, you need to ease up on the lead.

Your halter training should have two goals in mind: basic handling, which includes moving the animal around the field, to the barn, or into a trailer, and showing. Showing an alpaca is an art form. Untrained alpacas (or their handlers depending on your point of view) lose points in the show ring in nearly every class at every show. Judges can not determine the confirmation of your animal if they will not walk freely without a struggle. Likewise they cannot judge your alpaca’s fleece, if they won’t stand still long enough for the judge to get their hands in the fleece. If you are unfamiliar with how alpacas are shown, attend a show and observe. While training your alpacas, get them to the stage where you can put them through a mock show complete with someone acting as a judge, checking their confirmation, fleece and teeth, etc.

With the proper patience and training spread out over daily sessions for as long as it takes, you will have an alpaca that will be easily shown, moved around the farm and transported. A well-trained alpaca will follow you around on a loose lead and will be more valuable.

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