How to Cart-Train Alpacas

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The alpaca's small size and docile nature makes the South American camelid an ideal harness animals that even children can handle. An alpaca tops out between 125 and 200 pounds on a light frame designed for carrying wool, not heavy loads, but he is capable of pulling children or small-framed adults on short rides. Use patient, consistent training to make sure your alpaca becomes consistently safe and reliable when pulling a cart.

Preparing Your Alpaca

A solid foundation of trust and communication is essential to successful cart training. Handle your alpaca daily in 10- to 15-minute sessions two or three times per day to accustom him to being touched on all parts of his body so he won't be jumpy when it comes time to fit him into a harness. Familiarize him with commands you'll use when he is pulling a cart, such as "stop," "stand," "right" and "left." Don't rush his training. Giving the creature time to understand basic obedience and develop trust in you will pay off with docile behavior when the alpaca is pulling a cart.

Preparing Yourself

Before heading out to his stall, develop a clear intention of what you want to teach your alpaca at each training session. When you approach, speak to him in a calm, soothing voice, and use consistent verbal and nonverbal signals for each stage of his training. Become familiar with all parts of your alpaca's harness and cart, and be comfortable with how to put them on your animal. If possible, practice with an experienced trainer on an alpaca who's familiar with the harness and cart. Well-worn harnesses are easier to buckle for the novice cart-handler, so save money and frustration by purchasing or borrowing a used harness.

Introducing the Harness

Allow your alpaca to sniff each piece of the harness before you put it on him the first time. Pet him with it, feed him treats and reassure him verbally. Don't expect to necessarily get the entire harness on him in the first session. Stick to 10- to 15-minute sessions, and review with him the steps you have already taught him at the next session before trying anything new. If your alpaca starts to panic, exhibits fear or becomes bored, agitated or distracted, slow down the lesson or pick it up at a later time. When he is fully used to the harness, practice the commands you taught him on the halter while walking behind him and guiding him with the long reins.

Introducing the Cart

The alpaca is a prey animal; a cart rolling behind him will trigger his flight reflex. Attaching him to an easily rolling cart makes him think he's being chased by a predator and can elevate him to a panicked state. Introduce the concept of pulling with a "drag" -- a weighted object such as sand bags on top of a wooden pallet. The drag won't produce as much scary movement, allowing him to keep his attention on the task at hand. Once he is used to pulling the drag with you walking alongside his head, walk behind the drag and guide him with the long lines. When he's completely comfortable with the drag over several sessions, hook him up to the cart, making sure to lead him by his halter until he is familiar with the cart's movement. Add weight to the cart with sand bags to prevent unnecessary movement and clattering sounds that may startle him at first.

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Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.