What Llamas Teach About Horse Training

“Horses hate llamas.” Lots of horse people told me that, but by then my gelding was babysitting my first cria and the party was in full swing.

Llamas are brave and curious. Mine hike with packs, do llama agility, and Sebastian was a ring bearer in a wedding. (At the reception he confused the Mother-of-the-Bride’s corsage for an hors d’oeuvre. It was an easy mistake to make.)

Whatever you know about livestock won’t help much with llamas- they are more similar to cats. They enjoy working with people but won’t be controlled. If you use any force or raise your voice, they kush and wont take another step. Conflict avoidant llamas remind you that work is supposed to be fun, or else. Better to start a game than send everyone into detention. Llamas taught me (again) that mental attitude is my best tool.

I remember Kyra Kirkland in a video years ago saying that training involved asking the horse in any way you could think of- for a movement sort of like what you wanted- and if he gave you something remotely in that direction- then reward him like crazy and ask again.

It impacted me to hear that the training process was creative- more than memorizing a cue by rote that would magically work on any horse. A relaxed mind will come up with a creative idea quicker than retrieving a fact much of the time.

None of this is new information, the challenge is being awake in the moment. It requires mental discipline to not default to cueing by rote, resulting in a horse’s response by rote; dull and mechanical. We can begin to be frustrated without being consciously aware of it. Frustration feels like a grudge to an animal- our body language speaks it loud and clear, even if we don’t verbalize it.

Here is what I know; if the thing you are asking isn’t understood, hearing the same words (or cues) louder and louder really doesn’t explain it any better. Time to take a breath, muster a happy seat, and get creative. It is all about the quality of the try, on both sides.

If you want an enthusiastic (camelid, canine, equine) partner, it’s up to you to lead, fresh and aware.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

(Photo: Horses ‘hate’ Llamas)

P.S. Growing a click at a time- this is the first birthday of my blog. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting. There is no shortage of words in cyberspace, I appreciate the time you spend here with us. (Especially those of you who don’t have horses, but read on anyway.) I notice and I’m grateful.


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Comment by Deborah Hopkins on February 18, 2011 at 11:52am
Hope Mother-of the-Bride wasn't WEARING the corsage at the time! Ouch!
Comment by Barbara F. on February 18, 2011 at 10:23am

Congratulations on your one-year birthday!

Another great post - I look forward to your writing every week!

And the photo is beyond fabulous. How SWEET!!!!!!

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