Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Introduction to Llamas 101

I don't know what kinds of trails you have in your neck o' the woods, but when I go trail riding around here I'm never sure what I'll encounter. The town I live in is home to about 10,000 horses (or 15,000, depending on who's counting). But there are other animals as well: your standard assorted "farm" animals, a bazillion dogs, a bevy of bison (or are they buffalo?), several zebras, a multitude of mules, a couple of camels (yes, I said camels), some emus and ostriches and... llamas. Out of this entire zoo stew of the animal kingdom, it's the llamas that concern my horses most.

Fortunately, there is only one llama herd that resides right alongside the horse trail. And I can avoid it entirely. In fact, I have to choose to confront the Land O' Llamas by crossing the main street in town and riding headlong into Llamaville. But since I enjoy a challenge-- and I'm never one to back down from daring myself to do anything-- I occasionally pick a day to saddle up and force my two horses to face their worst fear: the llamas.

Wally does the Snort and Stare. He arches his neck in his best impersonation of an Arabian halter stallion, pricks his ears forward at the head llama (a robust chocolate brown creature), and attempts to stare down the beasties. It isn't reassurance that Wally wants from me. It seems more likely that he wants me to pat his neck and tell him, "You're the man, Wally, you're the man."

Once Wally feels that he has intimidated the llamas, explaining that they are critters beneath his lordly rule, he continues on down the trail. He's strutting, mind you, but he carries onward.

Lexi, on the other hand, just can't quite make sense out of the llamas. I don't try to push her past the long-necked, doe-eyed animals. Instead I allow her plenty of time to inspect them. She doesn't give any indication of turning her golden hindend in the opposite direction and fleeing, which I find incredibly reassuring. But she doesn't budge, either. So we stand. And I wait. A long time. Eventually Lexi will begin to lick the bit in her mouth, turn her head away from the llamas and look across the street or back at me. That's my cue that she's "okay" with the llamas. We can take a few steps forward, and I stroke her neck with my hand. And then we stop again (because a llama can look oh-so-different from oh-so-many angles). And I wait. A long time. Then when Lexi's body language tells me she's secure that the llamas are secure behind their enclosure, we take a few more steps down the trail.

You can see that when I'm doing llama duty it can result in a lengthy trail ride.

But at least my horses are getting exposed to everything. If I ever have to ride herd on Noah's ark I'll be ready.

Do you have any interesting, unusual or exciting trail riding encounters that you'd like to share? Just email me at: hc-editor@bowtieinc.com or click on "comments" below.


Halsgal said...

Turns out that llamas are the whole reason why I have a horse! I used to just ride around on old nags at a very low quality barn and I learned a lot, but I mean REALLY low quality barn, and they had a llama. Well, we were all walking in a line along the fence where the llama was, and the first horse bolted and then a game of "who can dump their rider first" ensued. Well, I stayed on but my poor mother, almost died she was so scared. So, said goodbye to that barn and headed to my current barn where I got my own horse. Gotta love those llamas . . .

Anonymous said...

My mare does it a bit like Lexi. She too, hates llamas. But she'll only take steps towards or past the llama until she tries many times to turn around and skedaddle! It's like, "Help me! those are the things I've seen a million times before when they might have possibly killed me!!

Anonymous said...

I recently got two young llama boys. Some of our 8 horses were fine with them, but others it took a few days for them to realize that the llama's weren't of the horse eating kind.
I must admit the llamas react totally different to things. Rather being being ready to run at the slightest shadow. The Llama boys have to inspect these scary things with a very serious "How Interesting" face on. And their humming just cracks me up, it will all sound the same until about feeding time when it gets a VERY demanding tone to it-much like my horses do at the same time.
Had a very interesting moment the other day. After a ride I had to clean stalls, and with the only pen not needing cleaning was the very large, round pen size, pen the llamas were in. Well, without any other place to put my horse while I cleaned the stalls. I decided to put my mare in with the llamas(she had already become "friends" with the llamas from across the fence) so with crossed fingers I set her loose...The first thing one of the llamas did was try to nurse off of her!! This is a young appendix mare, has no experience with youngsters, and barely tolerates me down there!
Needless to say she was not pleased with this idea.
Thankfully she handled it gracefully, and only warned the llama a few times with her hoof, and never actually tried to make contact. Capt. Jack(the llama) learned a valuable lesson that day.
Sorry for the novel. My llamas have proved to be fascinatingly animals that I could talk about all day(in between horse talk of course)

Nancy said...

nOne day while on a trail ride in the middle of the New Hampshire woods, we came upon a logging operation and went in to investigate. Huge trucks, logging equipment - grasping a full size pine tree by the trunk, shearing it off - hugely noisy, ground is shaking. The horses didnt bat an eyelash, just watched with interest. Turned around to go out of the clearing, got back on the trail, and a killer, horse eating chipmunk scampers out - horse goes into a major panic - shies, tries to bolt. Horses just crack me up!

Anonymous said...

Never met a llama while horse back riding, but I did have monent like Nancy. I was riding by a road(to get to the pack/pond) and this huge disel truck roars by, and my horse looks at it, blinks, and keeps walking. Once we get there, a butterfly flutters out in friunt of us, and my horse tries to head for the hills. So funny, giot to love those horses!

Anonymous said...

I've never met a llama on my horse, but I did encounter a fire-breathing, horse-gobbling donkey!
My horse stopped short and tensed up like a giant spring. I could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Luckily I was riding with a much saner horse, who was able to "shield" Johnny as we went past. Just out of site he started to bray, and I thought we might end up in the next state! To this day he still fears them!

Anonymous said...

My horse's terrified of the sheep.... that has been at the barn for YEARS. When we moved the horses there, the sheep was there. His name's Chops, and he's the only one left out of 33 (nobody wanted to buy him LOL), and he's friends with a donkey, Cecil. Every time I ride Bucky past Chops, Bucky goes "OHMYGOD HORSE-EATING SHEEP! KILLER KILLER KILLER!!" and literally leaps three feet in the air. Loser. And he's turned out with Chops everyday.

I've never encountered a llama - NC isn't much for llamas. But that reminds me of a song - the Llama Song. (look it up on newsgrounds.com)

Cindy Hale said...

I knew you would all have interesting-- and somewhat scary-- trail riding encounters to share. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one perplexed by horses' responses to things. For example, I can ride my sister's Thoroughbred all the way up to the golf course at the top of the hills, and he just toodles along. Traffic, bicycles, barking dogs don't bother him. But if we ride past a house where the landscaping scene includes some craggy boulders in the front yard? He just freezes. He's utterly mystified with large rocks in front yards.

Llamas are such pretty creatures. Plus, they look as if their wool might contribute to a lovely sweater I'd like to wear, so they get bonus points for that! So I'm not sure why horses tend to freak out about them.

I'm sure I'll have some more trail tales to share soon. Thanks for sharing some of yours!

Anonymous said...

My horse's biggest fear is... cows. Dairy cows. That can be a small problem in rural Wisconsin when your only mode of transportation is a) a horse, or b) a bike. I can't ride bike on a specific route (pronounced "root") because of a big mean St. Bernard that lives on a, you guessed it, Dairy Farm. And everyone, although apperently not me, knows that the main staple in a cows diet is horse meat. If only I was smart enough to knoow that, my horse would hand me a Bill Engval "Here's your sign" if she had thumbs.

Anonymous said...

i have 10 llamas and 6 shires and 6 percheron and 4 fresians and many cows and rabbits and you get the point {we have a HUGE farm} and all of my horse {in all seperate 5 acre fields}{each horse has a 5 acre field} and the llamas run free and they go in the fields and eat the horses hay and the horses look at them like "my my my hay" not yours!