Thursday, August 23, 2007

Halter Training 101

We like to make halter training as pleasant of an experience as possible. Saying that, it seems everyone has had different experiences with halter training and I am always asking questions from people that have well mannered animals in the show ring. Getting them started young seems to work best for me. As soon as I could fit their tiny heads into halters we started working with them. Since all seven of our cria are about the same age, this made things easy. At about 2 months I started separating cria from moms at breakfast time. All cria in one pen and moms right next to them in another pen. I put halters on the cria and put their morning food out for them. Once they get used to the idea of eating with their halters on, they dont pay much attention to them anymore. I snap on a key tag to each halter with the crias name on it so each animal has a properly fitted halter on its head. Also, they get used to me handling their legs, under their tale and their ears at this time. We also practice showing their teeth. I make a habit of saying out loud teeth when I am showing teeth and foot when I am handling their legs. This way the animal knows what it coming. We also say, halter on when putting on the halter and, halter off when taking the halter off. After a few weeks of this I start snapping on the lead and getting them used to it. Lots of ranches use different types of systems to teach them to stand tied to a fence; this is great, especially if you have several alpacas at a time you need to work on. We have been snubbing them with a soft rope tied high to a fence post. This way if we need to get a quick release we just have to pull the one side of the rope and they are free. Getting crias to walk on a lead is a whole different ball game. Some do, some dont, some will, some wont. Everyone is different. I have learned it is all about, breathing, balance, and relax, watching their feet and trust. Of course you must fit the halter correctly on the alpaca head. I remember being shamed by the judge in my first show because my alpacas halter was not fitted to her head correctly. She calmed right down, once her halter was fitted properly. Remember, halter training doesnt have to be a scary thing for you or your alpacas. This is a learning process for both of you.