Stanton Drew’s Diary – the first snow of the year
I’ve been told I’m a bit special. I’m not really sure why, but our people had some visitors from a long way away who showed them some new llama training techniques. Of course, Silbury was very dismissive and looked down his pointy nose at the idea of more training, but being an amenable young chap, I was willing to give it a go.
What happened was that Terry Two-Leg looked over our herd and worked out which of us would be most responsive to her special training methods. This involved seeing which among us was calm, who was a bit more highly strung and which llama had the sort of character Terry could work with. My special place at the manger is under it (which is why my fibre is full of bits of hay), and she felt my back as I fed and realised I was quite calm and knew my place in the herd. I didn’t flinch and was very happy in the company of Terry Two-Leg.
I was put in a pen and Terry worked with me for a few minutes. It wasn’t really work for me, because all I had to do was use my nose to touch a halter that she was holding out and then I’d get a treat. Well, I thought there must be a catch so was a bit wary at first, but after a few goes I realised that when I touched the halter in Terry’s hand, she made a noise with something she called a clicker. She immediately fed me a small piece of my regular llama feed. We did this 20 or 30 times and then I started to lose interest. A few phrases flew around my lovely ears – ‘attention span’, ‘short sessions’, and ‘Good Boy’ which is a pretty regular phrase said to me.
I was released from the pen and my uncle Avebury was walked in. He is 7 and older and wiser than me, but he had a go at touching a card and was rewarded with some mix. I heard ‘not so able’ and ‘warier’ and after a while I swapped places with Avebury and went back into the pen.
This time, I showed that some of the first session’s training had been learned and I was quicker at touching the halter with my soft, velvety nose. Another 20 or 30 attempts to put my nose to the halter or ‘target’ as Teacher Two-Leg called it and I was showing some signs of ‘trainability’. Terry had made great progress too – she’d quickly picked up that if I was given food, I’d happily touch my nose to the halter whilst she made her funny clicking noise the next time. We were both happy.
My male person has decided he would like to spend some time trying this new method of training with us, so watch this space for developments in the next few months.
Meanwhile the cold white stuff has come early this year. If we truffle around a bit we can find grass underneath the snow, but we’d really rather eat hay. I’m a good boy, but some of the stronger characters in the herd make sure our people know ‘We Want Hay’ by standing in the yard and refusing to leave, and if this fails, by chewing the window frames on their office. Our good people aren’t happy when a naughty llama chews the window frames, but they probably need some clicker training themselves to get them out of the habit of rewarding a hungry window-frame-chewing-llama with mix and hay. Stenness and Avebury say it’s pretty easy to get our people to perform.
Because we’re eating more hay and less grass at the moment we need to drink more water. Our people put out buckets of water three times yesterday and we drank the lot. Even in a hot summer this doesn’t happen. When we eventually did walk down to Bottom Field in the middle of the day, some of us still felt thirsty and ate the snow on the top of the gate posts. It’s very important we have enough to drink, but snow eating is just for fun.
Our nights are spent on our thick mats in our barn. It’s very cold, but if we stay under cover our fleeces stay frost-free. The bright mornings are gorgeous, and we stand in the sun and steam.
More llama chat from Golden Valley Llamas soon