Brodgar talks about mentoring
Training the young chaps is flavour of the month at the farm. Rollright was one year old last week and Moai will be one next Monday. The lads have started training to be able to walk on a halter and lead which is an important stage in learning to be a llama trekker.
From an early age our people handle us and whilst adult llamas like me are fed, haltered, tied up, groomed, and walked, the youngsters are expected to watch and learn. But it doesn’t always work like that. Our people have a theory about what has happened each year since cria started being born at Old King Street Farm. I knew, but the two legs wouldn’t pay attention, but it finally appears they’ve got it. Let me explain.
Three years ago there were three cria on the farm – males Croft Ambrey and Kennett and female Merrivale.
Two years ago we had male Stanton Drew and female Hetty Pegler.
And last year males Rollright and Moai and female Marden were born here.
As you can see there hasn’t been a year when there have been two girls born. What this means is that when the time comes for the girls to be taken from their mothers, they are weaned with older aunties, sisters and geldings. Merrivale, Hetty Pegler and Marden have always been mentored by older and wiser llamas. Cria play has continued, of course, but the tolerance of an older llama for being jumped on and generally annoyed is shorter than that of another cria and as a consequence the female cria have matured remarkably quickly. They’ve had to grow up quickly – I mean Miss Marden is a really corking little thing yet is only a couple of months older than her brothers. For most of the boys it has been different. Kennett split his bonding on both my brother Stenness and on the other cria from his year – Croft Ambrey. This year Master Rollright and Master Moai have always each other to play with as well as an older gelding to literally show them the ropes.
Another thing we all knew but which wasn’t picked up by the two legs was that the bonding on an older gelding could be controlled. Our people want things to be natural, and hoped the young ‘uns would bond on the best trekking llamas, but this doesn’t always happen. Last year Stanton Drew ‘adopted’ me and this was a good move. I’m brilliant. I trek beautifully, am extremely clever, am tolerant of irritating little tykes, and generally try to be an all round ‘good egg’. Stanton Drew was trekking from 13 months. Smart fellow.
Now, our people realised our herd leader Ringsbury was becoming mentor to the young chaps, and whilst this is excellent in terms of harmony on the farm – I have to admit that we couldn’t have a better leader than Ringsbury – he only asserts his authority when one of us has been particularly naughty – Rollright and Moai would hardly be likely to learn the particular skills of trekking from him when his work chiefly confines him to the farm. So, they made the right choice and split the male herd into two. For just a week or two, Stenness, Croft Ambrey, Stanton Drew, Rollright, Moai and I will make up a male mini herd. Smaller numbers are easier to manage and training which has been going on for two days has been remarkably successful.
We are called in to the feeding pen and given a tiny amount of food. We eat from buckets, though we four older boys can be hand fed. After haltering and tying up, we older llamas are groomed. This is particularly easy at the moment as following our shearing our fibre is extremely short and we only have a soft brush rubbed over our necks and sides. The idea is for the youngsters to stand next to us and see this. And it works. Grooming Rollright and Moai is easy. They are encouraged to ‘give’ their feet as they have seen me do the same and it all goes well. These two haven’t been keen on walking on halters and lead ropes before, but in two days they are walking round the yard. Fantastic. What was the trick? Well previously the boys hadn’t wanted to walk from the pen and leave us behind. Walking two in hand with an older llama by their sides partially worked but it wasn’t good enough. No. The key was to take Croft Ambrey, Stanton Drew, Stenness and me out of the pen and tether us in the larger yard. The boys were now really keen to walk out to us and as we older boys were tethered in a circle the young chaps were happy to walk well on lead ropes from one to the other of us. We’ve been doing this for two days, twice a day and for no more than five minutes. Great. And today’s second walk saw we older geldings tethered yet further away, and the youngsters happily walked straight through the gate to see us. No squeaks. No running. Bonding on older llamas. Maturing.
These boys may be going to a couple of shows in the next couple of months and it would have been a pretty poor performance if they couldn’t walk in a circle. Now, we mustn’t run before we can walk as they say, but seeing as these shows often have llama racing and llama agility tests it would be nice if they could join in the fun.
I think our people have got it – the right mentor for the right young llama. It’s early days, but I think Croft Ambrey and Stanton Drew will each prove an excellent mentor to Rollright and Moai. I will oversee. No doubt the six of us will be going off on a trial llama trek any day now.
Brilliant. Brodgar signing off.