This is the true story of a sweet stubborn llama and his equally stubborn, yet loving owner, who really wanted to take him for a walk...
Spot is the first llama we bred from our own, but when he was born in January 2013 I realised I didn't have a halter small enough to fit him.
"It's OK", I thought "I'll just make sure he is used to being handled, then I will halter train him later!"
A few months ago, when we started running farm visits for families here at Tatum Hills, we realised it'd be useful to have Spot walk on a lead. His brother Valentine is doing most of the PR for us and we do have other llamas that walk on the lead, but Spot and Valentine are best friends and we thought they'd actually enjoy working together...
After a few repetitions I put the crown piece around his head and held it there without doing it up, for a couple of seconds, click, reward and remove the halter.
To my surprise he seemed quite OK with that too and within minutes I was able to buckle his halter up... Then I let go and waited for a reaction...
Note that due to Spot's fear of confined spaces we were working in the open paddock and I was expecting him to run off bucking and kicking. Instead he just stood there, making the occasional funny face, but still willing to come to me to touch a target for food.
I took his halter off and put it back in several times, all the while clicking and rewarding him for calm behaviour. He took it all in his stride.
Done! In only about 5 short sessions over 10 days, my Spot went from halter-phobic to walking on the lead quite well, all thanks to a clicker, lots of food and a very inexperienced handler.
The best part of it all is that I feel I was actually communicating with him.
I think the fact that Spot was comfortable being close to me and being touched really helped, I'm now trying this method for some of my more skittish llamas but I think it'll take me longer... Still, looking forward to building a stronger bond with them and making our lives easier in the process!
Born and raised in Italy, travelled a lot and lived in Singapore and Spain