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Biomechanical and Conformational Analysis



The only valid criteria for a performance llama are excellence in performance and soundness over time. Not all llamas are trained and proven or testable. Evaluation of the performance prospect is based on educated guessing. The more educated you are, the better your guesses will be. To evaluate propensity for ability -- endurance and stamina, pace, and soundness -- the studies of conformation and biomechanics come into play.

Biomechanics is concerned with efficiency of physical operation in a living being. By definition, all animals have varied purposes (eating, defense, reproduction); domestic animals have additional human-imposed tasks, but also decreased needs for some purposes (primarily defense).

Although there are mechanical ideals for all elements of movement, a biological organism must necessarily compromise some ideals to include others. Biomechanical ideals for soundness, stability, and movement -- all desirable elements in a working llama -- are frequently in conflict.

Conformation concerns the physical characteristics of the llama's body. Functional conformation is correctly evaluated from the inside out and from the spine outward -- NOT from the legs, wool outline, "topline," "condition," or ears!

"Good conformation" is meaningless drivel until "for what" is also defined. A single animal may embody perfect conformation for one use and the worst possible conformation for another use.

To evaluate the performance ability of an animal, we examine its movement. To predict the soundness of an animal or to evaluate the source and "fixability" of movement anomolies, we examine its conformation while it is in motion.

What will a video analysis do for me?

If you are interested in owning, using, or developing a breeding program for quality athletic performance llamas without spending years sorting through countless llamas who are nice enough, but just don't make the grade, our conformation analysis service will provide you with the critical information you require.

Each analysis provides a detailed description of every aspect we are able to detect in your video footage regarding your llama's structure and operation as it is related to both soundness and biomechanical efficiency.

Our analyses are based on our honest, professional opinion.

You get no fluff, hype, wishy-washy nonanswers or patronizing commentary. Animals are objectively assessed on the basis of their structural strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, you will get a complete assessment -- and that includes all the negatives along with the positives.

Our consultation service CAN help breeders make more informed selection decisions in their attempt to breed the very best they can, whether the goal is breeding packers, driving llamas, or simply sound companions.

How does it work?

Send us a videotape of any llama(s) whose conformation you would like analyzed, using the following guidelines:

  • Chose a location with consistent lighting (not passing through shadows). Overcast is better than bright sun; in bright light, position yourself so that the sun is behind the camcorder. Be sure to look for shadow lines from fenceposts and rails that will obscure details of the llama's legs when viewed.
  • Gait analysis is only accurate when the llama is viewed from the side and moving on a level surface. Additional footage of the llama moving up and down a slope is useful, but is not critical.
  • It is important that the llama wants to go in the direction s/he is being led. Nervousness and apprehension can cause stiffness which can seriously affect gait and render the resultant analysis inaccurate.
  • Include the llama's full body in the frame -- be careful not to cut off feet and pasterns.

Include ample footage (several times) of the llama:

  • from the front, walking straight toward the camera
  • from the side, walking, jogging and running
  • from the rear, walking straight away from the camera

What next?

After receipt and review of your videotape, we will provide a detailed written analysis based on what we have seen, including any requested recommendations that may apply to specific consults.

You should then review your videotape along with our written comments to best understand the information and perspective of our analysis. Next, you should use that information in combination with your knowledge of other aspects we can't address -- for instance, we obviously can't assess most temperament traits from a videotape, and can only make educated guesses as to whether an individual has appropriate composition of wool type for a working llama. Only you can weigh the total package of attributes and detriments in each animal as an individual -- against your ideals and against other llamas you may already own -- and make your own decision as to whether this animal suits your selection requirements.

What does it cost? How long will it take?

Cost is $30 per llama analyzed, with a $3 return postage charge for each videotape.

The turnaround time is variable, depending on how many llamas you include on a videotape for conformation analysis, and how many other consultations are pending at that time. And because we continue to show and pack with our own llamas, we may not be able to work on video analyses immediately if the timing isn't good. We do try to get our response back within no more than 30 days (preferrably within 15 days) of receipt of the videotape.

Does it work?

That depends on how (or if) you choose to use the information we provide. However, our clients tell us that our input has been an important or even the pivotal factor in their decisions. You are unlikely to find biomechanically detailed and accurate analyses of individual animals from any other source. Our clients also say that they appreciate our honesty and candor, and that they have begun to look at their llamas in an entirely different way.

Further reading: Conformation, Utility, and Llamas

AND COMING SOON: (From Lost Creek Llamaprints)

The Functional Llama

A series of videos explaining each physical aspect of llamas that affects performance. This series will be a must-have for all serious performance llama breeders, and for all prospective buyers who want to maximize their chances of finding a llama that will suit their needs.

For more information, contact us directly.

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