Sunday, 30 September 2012

Haltering the matriarch...

Cast - Me (Mum) and 18y.o Daughter
Starring - Acua 11y.o female Alpaca
Acua - the assumed matriarch!
We have had Acua for six days, and she has simply assumed the role of matriarch.  It is interesting to watch how she established this, as she didn't spit and fight with Vodka.  Instead she bounded around the paddocks, peering over the fences or just standing very straight in the middle of the paddock with her ears up, and the others just got caught up in her enthusiasm and ran after her - including Voddy!  That was it!!

When Daughter or I go out, Acua sees us and then runs to a nearby fence to peer over it.  The herd are then torn between going to see what Acua is doing and coming to us for food.  Well, the buckets win of course, Alpacas are greedy!  Acua is not happy with this so she then bounds in front of the rest to reach me first and sniff my face.  Once we have all the Alpacas sorted and assigned to their buckets, I usually talk to all of the girls and touch their backs (to which they have become accustomed), whilst Daughter manages the two boys.  Lucky has been the only girl I can't touch as she is just too timid, but she will allow me to crouch next to her bucket and just gives me the 'arched eyebrow' everytime she brings her head up.  Alpaca lady said that Lucky was always very timid, so I am going slow with her.

Acua, however, is simply in my face and raises her tail at all times near me.  If I am crouched down she stands with her head over me and tries to raise her foot on me.  I have seen this behaviour repeated with 15y.o son and Daughter.  I have told her off, but yesterday I decided to re-establish the hierarchy.  I coaxed Acua into the pen with a bucket, so there was KayJay, Hamish and Sherman in with her.  Daughter and I tried to catch Acua, being wary of her back legs as she kicks.  Acua kept swinging her backside around, to ensure that we were always behind her, and the other Alapcas kept getting in the way.
Once haltered, Acua kept trying to push her head into me - hence the hold just under her cheek.

We finally cornered her and I grabbed her back.  Unfortunately it wasn't a great hold and she twisted before I could get my arm around her neck and...she spat all over me!  Well, that was just enough!  Although it wasn't a full regurgitated food spit, it was still disgusting and smelly (for those of you whom have never been covered with Alpaca spit - let me tell you, there is nothing QUITE like it).  I gave her such a telling off about her manners (finger pointing and everything) that she actually looked ashamed, and lowered her tail.  Vodka took the opportunity to spit on Acua from the other side of the gate, and she got told off too!  I was in such a rant that the other Alpacas came up to see what the fuss was about, and Acua looked very subduded - I think she knew she had crossed the line!  She stood very still as I showed her the halter, she knew exactly what was going on (she has been a show Alpaca for years!), so she then cushed.  I put her halter on without any further problem, but then she refused to stand!  Well...we are now professionals at this and Daughter had her up in a minute.  Well, there was certainly a different Alpaca now on the end of the lead!  Acua walked beautifully around the pen, receiving lots of praise, for both Daughter and I before we let her off.  Then we haltered the boys straight away, and Acua came up to see how they were going.
Not happy but haltered!
We let all of the Alpacas out of the pen and walked the boys out of the paddock and up the road with Acua watching every step of the way.  She was much better behaved for the rest of the afternoon, but I think we will have a few more haltering sessions, just to keep her in check :)

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