highlight photo

Rocky Mountain Highlight, MPL


ILR # 265277

male  b. 9-28-2005 . . . d. 01.07.2021

Rocky Mountain High Spirits x Rocky Mountain Puzzle

Highlight was 42” at the withers and his “fighting weight” stabilized in the 260 lb range, although he would quickly drift above 300lbs in his youth if his feed intake wasn't regulated. He had all the necessary conformational attributes for a working llama as verified by his easy ability to keep up with longer-legged handlers. As such, Highlight was an outstanding “idiot detector” — he invariably “outed” the clueless types who are brainlessly hung up on size, size, and more size ... as if looks cancel out function somehow!?!?!

Highlight was the only offspring of High Spirits, and also the only male offspring of Puzzle (dam of Dazzle). We appreciated Highlight’s many superior qualities, not the least of which is that he was one of the easiest animals to manage on our farm. Highlight was awarded his PLTA Master Pack Llama certification with (as per our own requirement for stud prospects) no special conditioning or preparation. Highlight’s superb disposition and innate intelligence were no surprise to us (both run deep in his ancestry), and they definitely made him a real treat to work and play with. Highlight’s excellent muscling, superior bone, tight and properly-proportioned structure (no trendy, unbalancing over-long neck here), lightness on his feet and above-average gaits all combined to create a stout, athletic, superior physical working package.

Highlight's coat was his one negative trait. We didn't like the long guard hair, but upon Highlight's arrival, Jim completely and easily combed out Highlight's undercoat and we were ecstatic. But that was the only time — we were fooled by a wool break — Highlight was actually a curaca llama, not a classic. However, his coat did have the highly desirable (and rare) sparseness of undercoat that is important for health and grooming ease, and he passed that on to all of his offspring. We were pairing Highlight very, VERY carefully with our standard (short) coat Classic females on a limited basis — because his other working genetic traits are just too awesome to discard.

Unfortunately, Highlight's ability to settle females declined markedly around 2016; his last offspring was born in early 2017, and we resigned ourselves to the reality that Highlight was no longer fertile. We believe his semen quality was compromised by the multipe courses of long-term antibiotics (ceftiofur sodium) prescribed for a molar abscess (OSU-VTH refused to remove the offending tooth, leaving us with no other options for control and pain relief). This particular drug is proven to cause long-lasting sperm damage in other species. Had we known this, we never would have administered it to Highlight.

All three of Highlight's progeny inherited his total athletic package, stellar disposition, cooperation and intelligence. (And, for what it's worth, all are taller than Highlight himself; two rather substantially so). To say that we are extremely pleased with all three would still be an understatement! This illustrates precisely why we have been extremely vocal about the push to eliminate llamas from breeding based on small size. The gene pool is small enough without removing highly capable llamas from it ... especially for "reasons" that don't hold up, and that aren't passed on.

Unfortunately, while Highlight was convalescing during treatment for his molar abscess, he acquired a rear leg injury at pasture and had to be prematurely retired from active backcountry packing. The injury may have been related to scarring from the insane number of intramuscular antibiotic injections Highlight received; we will never know for sure.

Due to repeated veterinary refusals to our requests for prope surgical treatment of Highlight's molar abscess, it never fully resolved, even after his molar fell out in 2019. We were preparing to humanely euthanize him when he abruptly lost interest in life when he suddenly (and mercifully) passed away.

Highlight was probably named to reflect his sire (High Spirits) and perhaps it was also an intentional oblique reference to his maternal half-sister (Dazzle). Regardless, Highlight certainly is one of the highlights around here!

Highlight earned his PLTA Master Pack Llama certification in Oct 2010

Note: At this particular set of trials, Highlight and Gwen started out in the lead at their usual trail-eating pace, but had to move to the middle solely due to another handler's insistance that his own llama needed to be in front. Highlight and Gwen were literally up the other (slower) llama's backside. Finally Gwen got completely fed up with (and SORE from) that leading llama abruptly stopping to eat — OFTEN — whereupon Gwen ran into him HARD followed by Highlight not being able to stop fast enough and thus plowing into her. Gwen and Highlight tried the end slot (the only remaining option in a group of three), but were too fast and too close to Credo to avoid all kinds of spit threats. The only solution to keep the peace was to hold Highlight back a LOT and then continue far out of Credo's trigger zone, stopping periodically to maintain that distance.

At the end of the trial, the handler of the other llama (the one who HAD to be in the lead) declared that Highlight was always far behind Credo and his own llama, and that this was because Highlight was too short to keep up.

Moral #1 — don't believe everything people say about "short" llamas; they may have already decided what they are going to see and never actually looked at the total picture.

Moral #2 — Not all MPL certified pack llamas are equal! Highlight proved he could (1) keep up (actually that he can go faster), (2) refrain from snacking on the trail, and (3) accept being in the lead, in the middle, or bringing up the rear ... but he received the same "credentials" as the llama who could only be in front and snacked constantly.

Meet Highlight's offspring: