Thursday, March 14, 2013

Racing Ahead With the Boys - One Step at a Time!

I will even stick my head through this hole for pellets!
I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I last posted about the boys!  So much has happened since then both with me and the boys.

As I waited for the tools to arrive, I spent time reading and studying the new new ways to work with the boys.  The most important thing I think I've learned is that it's me that has to be trained and then they are simply handled properly.  It's a new concept to me, that all I want from them is to accept me as their handler and learn to do nothing.  I don't mean that they won't learn to do things, they will, but first they just need to stand still and do nothing!  And I have to breathe!

I continued to go out to the pasture and stall and give them their treats (alpaca pellets) when they come to me.  And now when they see me coming they almost run, well, actually Sammy does run to me.  He's the two year old and he has his own way of doing everything and is proving to be the most difficult to work with, but he's had two years of no handling, so I think that's to be expected.  I am seeing progress with him.

Lefty with his head between my arm and body to eat treats!
So all of my tools arrived on Friday, so I practiced using the catch rope on the bar stool and then on our carousel horse in the back yard.  I tried it on Bill too, but decided the horse is the best!  He probably likes that idea too; however, we will be using the rope on each other to learn how to "not" hold and to help learn balance without force.  (He doesn't know this yet, but he will help)

Monday I headed out to see what I could do.  I would love to say I headed out with confidence that I would accomplish great things, but I was actually not expecting much, if anything.  They still pulled away if they even thought I was reaching out to them.  But, Marty said in her book that you can't build trust just hanging out with them.  You must work with them, they must learn to trust you as you do things with them and expect them to respond, so there I was ready to get one in the catch pen.

Well, I got three in the catch pen.  It was the first time they had seen that the pen could be cut in half and it didn't seem to bother them, but now I had to get two out.  Amazingly, using my wand I was able to herd two out and was left with just Lefty.  I began running the wand down the back of his neck and across his body as he stood and looked out the gate at the other two.  Sammy and Pancho were right outside looking in and I'm sure wondering when I was going to throw my arms around Lefty's neck and hold him in a death grip, but that never happened.  I moved around with him in a non-threatening way and as I offered him so food I began to touch the top of his head.  When he pulled away, I stopped!  He would walk away and then come right back and I increased the touching.  There are some massage techniques and I began to use them on his head.  So there it was  - he came up, I touched, he walked away and when about 15 minutes were up, I released him.

My first thought was and now I need to get another one in, but guess what?  It appears that they had watched closely and saw that Lefty was getting food inside the pen and they were not!  And so Pancho came rushing in!  I worked with him and he wasn't quite as agreeable as Lefty, but it was a good session and then there was Sammy!  When it was his turn he burst into the pen!  He wanted his share of the goodies, but he really didn't want to do anything to get them!  He paced, he didn't want the wand near him, he wanted treats, but he didn't want me to touch him in any way.  Now remember he's our two year old, so he's gone twice as long without human touch, so I'm really not surprised by his attitude and worked with as much as I could and ended the day.

I was pleased and excited because I had hope!

Lefty letting me rub his head for a snack!
Tuesday I worked with them once in the morning and again in the afternoon.  Both Lefty and Pancho let me touch them more and more and Lefty actually seemed to enjoy the massaging on his head and neck. Sammy really didn't want it at all!  I remembered reading somewhere that you could take the bowl of food, hold it to your back with your arm forming a circle and see if they will place their head through the circle!  And he did!!!!!  First he looked at the bowl and my arm and then slowly moved forward and stuck his head through.  Think about this, now his neck was surrounded by body and arm. He didn't stay long, but he came right back and so this is how I've worked with him on Tuesday.

Sammy being this close to me is just amazing!  
Yesterday there were two more sessions and everyone is doing better.  Well, almost!  In the morning I had a hard time getting them out of the pen and leaving just one and so I worked with Lefty with everyone in the pen and then finally was down to one Sammy.  Again we worked with the circle and he began to let me touch the top of his head for a few seconds before he moved away.  Each time I tried it was a little longer.  And then I let him out and tried to get Pancho in.  All three wanted to come in and I finally took the bowl out and did the circle with Pancho outside of the pen and guess what he stuck his head right through the circle!  Then I just led him into the pen and we had our time together.  He was much better.  The second session was after Bill got home and he was able to snap a couple of pictures.  He was amazed as I worked with them!  Pancho was first and didn't get his picture taken, but here are the other two!  What I need to take is a picture of Pancho looking through the gate watching the Lefty get food!  I really believe they're learning from each other!

I am so excited!  When I let them back out they don't take off they just hang around me .  I really do see hope, but I'm taking it slow.  We are taking this one step at a time!  Next week I will try the catch rope, but if they're not ready, I will slow back down.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Week 2 - Really, Only Week TWO!

I am in pen - trying not scare them as I leave!
Week two began with some serious changes!  We let them back out into the pasture and left the big gate to the stall open.  We opened it - they wandered out and right back in and then out for grazing.  It was good to see that they didn't rush out like they were getting out of jail.

Later that afternoon I went out shook their food can and they came right to me.  I let them eat out of my hand a few bites and stopped.  They wandered back out to the pasture.  In my last post I shared that I had made up my mind there had to be a better way and waited for my two books on handling to arrive from Camelidynamics, well I actually ordered them from Amazon, but they were written by Marty Bennett who founded Camelidynamics.

While I waited I continued to visit them during the day and evening and give them a little food each time they came into the stall/pen.  They came in readily, sometimes running!  The first couple of nights I felt better to close them in for the night, but by Tuesday I just let them stay out all night and that's what they continued doing for the rest of the week.  There's a motion light and a couple of nights they have triggered it as they did some running around in the pen, but other than that it stays dark and they seem to be happy and safe.  And I continue to try and breathe!  Letting them be alpacas and not trying to treat them like a household pet!

The books arrived on Thursday and I began to read!  By Thursday night I was almost blind and very confused.  I saw that Camelidynamics had a Guild and so I joined on Friday and was able to express my concerns about learning how to handle them on the forum.  Marty Bennett responded not only on the forum but sent me a wonderful, encouraging email and suggested I might want to attend one of the training clinics.  And so, I leave Texas for Oregon on June 14 and spend five glorious days there, four of which will be hands on training for me!  You see their theory is you don't train the alpaca, you train the handler!  And in the meantime I ordered some tools that I think will help me learn from the books how to be a loving, trustworthy handler and the clinic will be the refinement.

So, now there's hope!  With Donna and Laurence and now Marty and the Guild members, I will have the help and encouragement I need to learn how to handle them in a way that will allow them to be alpacas, but, alpacas that can be used in social situations.

Those of you who know me well, know that God is present in every thing in my life and this is no exception.  In my concern and frustration, I prayed so hard over these three guys. I prayed for wisdom to learn how to handle them and for them to find peace and trust in their new home and God has answered with new skills to learn and old and new friends to help me and them along the way.

 My friend Lawsona with a big horse!
Praising God my alpacas are small!
Wednesday I stopped by a friends house that has draft horses.  This is my friend with the zebras and longhorns that I post pictures of so often on Facebook, but I had never been to her house.  I drive by, I take tons of pictures of her animals, we see each other at events and she always tells me to stop in, but I don't. But Wednesday I knew the Lord said turn in to her driveway, she will give you wisdom and she did!  These horses make my alpacas look like puppies, but I knew Lawsona would have encouraging words and her advice was to just relax and spend time with them.  Grab a book and a small chair and sit in the pasture with them.  Study them and stay relaxed.  Just be!

That's how she trained an "untrainable" horse!  She got to know him  and he got to know her and trust was the result.  And so I went home and began to just hang with them and I know they appreciate that I just want to be with them, to get to know them and as my new friend Marty says to let them know that I just may speak alpaca!  Not with words, but with the understanding of what they need, the fears that they have and the desire to not force myself into their space.

Already not grabbing at them this week has paid off.  They come right up to me, sniff me and when I move they don't run.  They may back a step away, but not running away.  They follow me all over the pasture as I do work, staying close enough to watch my every action and seem to be interested in every duty I have.  In the barn with much less room, I try to move away and not at them and they no longer seem to mind my being so close.  I'm trying to stay out of their personal space and I'm surprised to see how often they move up close to me, even if for just a moment. The hardest part is not reaching out to touch them, but I'm learning and they seem to notice the change!

So week two ended on a high note!  One filled with encouragement, peace and hope!  What more can we ask for that!  God is good, ALL the time!