management and resources
Driving llamas in harness
Fiber from llamas
Our llama family
Just for fun
- If you don't rescue ...
- DON'T BREED!
Ranger Dusty with Gwen
Originally, Gwen taught Ranger Dusty to drive
as an additional means of conditioning him for packing. Dusty
liked it so much that driving has become another way we enjoy
Currently, llama driving is most often seen
as a curiousity class at shows. What is particularly curious
is that the llamas usually wander vaguely about -- if they move
at all -- and frequently look contorted, uncomfortable, and unnatural.
After viewing one of these controlled disasters, many people
come away with the idea that llamas are not really driving animals.
We certainly used to think so. However, we had seen one very
good driving llama who moved out well, was quite comfortable,
and certainly looked like a cart was part of his natural repertoire.
We set about to uncover the reasons why most llamas do so poorly,
ended up redesigning equipment and adjusting our training methods,
and can now say that we have successfully addressed most, if
not all, of these issues.
Where do we drive llamas? On the road (if
it's not too busy), at the nearby state park, on bike paths,
at virtually any fairgrounds we visit for shows, and -- for show
practice -- in the usually-empty parking lot of a nearby county
park and boat ramp. Dirt roads are fun, too, although impassable
in this climate for part of the year. Gravel makes such roads
passable, but large rock (the material of choice for most unpaved
public roads in our area) bruises llama feet, and so we don't
use those unless the llamas will only be walking. Forest and
grassland trails are wonderful if wide enough and not too soft,
but blackberry thorns make these a bad choice for carts with
Conditioned, well-built driving llamas can
trot for miles, and if properly worked by cantering for about
50% of their outing, can usually use up the available roadway
and your time before tiring. Even a less-well-endowed llama with
good equipment, proper conditioning, and proper working practices
can take you for a pleasureable drive of several miles.
Gender is not an important issue for a driving
llama. We drive open and pregnant females, geldings, and studs
(who, if they couldn't behave in harness, would no longer qualify
for our breeding program!). Sahalie is eager to drive when pregnant
until about one month before parturition, and she happily returns
to the road when her baby is a month old and can afford for her
to be gone for a couple of hours.
Hyder Llamas Sahalie with Jim
Like all things, driving is not for everyone
or every llama. There's equipment to transport -- simple enough
to do alone if well-designed attachments for the cart can be
put on your vehicle, but nigh unto impossible otherwise. Some
locations just don't have a decent area to drive in within a
reasonable distance. Some llamas simply don't like the effort
involved, are too herd-bound for use as a pleasure driving animal,
or are too violent and/or unpredictable to be safe in harness.
And some llamas are physically unsuitable and can incur serious
damage from driving.
Showring driving is an advanced endeavor and,
quite frankly, training for show driving classes isn't very exciting.
It's no wonder that most llamas in driving classes don't look
happy or act like they know what they're up to. We have had good
success concentrating instead on actually driving, which we and
our llamas enjoy, and leaving the artificial show stuff for later.
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