Last night I went to the “meet and greet” at Marty McGee Bennett’s house, where she hosts her Camelid Dynamics workshops. It was a chance to have a drink and socialize with all the others who have traveled here to take 4 days worth of alpaca handling basics. Such a wonderful group of folks! Alpaca peeps seem to be! It turns out that a number of attendees are actually staying at my hotel. So, we were quick to arrange a carpool for the next several days. Pretty nifty.
Bright and early the next day we all met and had breakfast together and bravely headed off to our first day of school (well not without making a wrong turn along the way and having to back track, oh about 10 miles, because we were all just Chatty Cathies and missed our turn). But, we got there. I was proud that our team was not the last to be eliminated from the Amazing Race (chuckle).
Such an amazing day! Lot’s of information starting with the basics of herding the alpacas into a catch pen, really it’s the key to all animal management. We learned about how we really enter into a conversation with each animal via our body language, specifically our shoulders and whether we are “with” the animal or “at” the animal…a BIG difference. After a number of pointers, tips, insights, and all-around great foundational knowledge, we put it to work.
First it was on the stand-in models…each other…then, the blow-up giraffes. Once we were comfortable with the catch pen, catch rope, and wands it was time for rounding up some ‘pacas for practicing.
Of course, knowing that my first challenge in “real life” was going to be my 3 llama boys waiting for us on Shaw Island, I made a beeline to the largest llama in the herd to have a little “catch pen conversation. Boy can these animals really tune into us humans! It was really hard to remember to breathe when you are in this very small pen with an animal that is a bit taller and larger than you! I was trembling a little on the inside (but I held my head proud and high and didn’t let them see me sweat…glad I doubled the Ban Roll-on…)
Once we had our partner in our catch rope we proceeded to make them feel safe and at ease by performing special TTOUCH techniques such as the “Clouded Leopard Touch” and the “Abalone Touch”, but especially the “Python Lift”. I really think part of it was all a ploy to put US at ease, rather than the animals that were probably in cahoots with the instructor to do this for every class. I swear we were more nervous than the animals! However, after a while, I have to say my little light bulb started to flicker into its “AH HA!” mode.
I can see that this will take lots of practice on my part. But it is truly amazing that not once did we use force or fight with any of these animals. This technique is profoundly quite and powerful. I am affected already.
Tomorrow it’s more work with the halters and then learning about leading…looking forward to it!