Hand feeding.

I have to be honest and say that I haven’t been training much over the last few months. There are lots of reasons. Lack of time. Indecision can I fit the work in with all the upheaval of our daily lives with 2 kids on the spectrum? Missing my amazing training partner (Alexis! That’s YOU!).

So I’ve felt distant from the herd. Our relationship has changed. William seems to look at me with the ever present question of are we training for treats today? But I don’t and he seems annoyed. But then he always looks annoyed. That’s part of his charm. Ida is still the same Ida but she is probably worried I may lock her in a small hurdled space with Leander for romance.

But today was a great day. It wasn’t actually the first time but this time was better. The tentative looks had vanished. The hesitation had disapeared.

Aragorn is eating out of my hand.

He has a current love of dandelions and fat hen. He was tentative and furtive at first but then he was eating like Susie and Ida. In fact he nosed Susie out the way. Has anyalpaca ever done that before? Not in Susie’s herd. But she let him.

I’m excited all over again. It is such a special feeling being with them all. Each of them has such a distinct and special personality. I want to share them with others. I want to see children get the same joy from hand feeding and working with them that I feel being around them. I need to find a training partner and start writing grants for cash to get the project going….

Ahhh but it’s massive!

Anyone for weekly alpaca training? (no spitting allowed).

Aragorn loses his virginity

It’s time to start blogging again regularly so here is a random update from today. It’s of how Aragorn, one of our two stud males, finally got to mate and we are pretty certain he has never mated before.

Today Bear started training all by himself. This was after he had already fed the hens which probably means he just threw half the bag of feed at them. Confirmed by all the hens and the goose inside the barn still peeking when I finally came out to see what kind of training he was up to. Bear is our very loveable middle child who has high functioning autism. He often has his own way of approaching life. I want to encourage him to work with the alpacas as this is my whole reason for having them. Working with children with autism. Getting ASD (Autism Spectrum DIsorder) children outside and working with animals/alpacas.

I let the girls in and we had Millie, Ida and Milky in the handling pen. Millie to treat her back, Ida to give Bear a go at leading and Milky to start working with him (he is very nervous like his Mum/Millie so I’ve left him longer- he’s a year old).

We did everything despite Bears ‘help’. Really he just talks too much instead of listening but it is very good training for me. And we were packing away when Millie lay down in the run way and Leander (Milkys Papa ie the stud that works) started his clicky cheek noises and trying to push his way through the hurdles. I don’t want Leander to mate with Millie because I have already put her with Aragorn (although I doubt Aragorn did anything with her judging from his lack of action).

I called my family out to help and it took three of us adults and two children to get Leander out of the hurdles (they are cheap and pretty useless at holding back an alpaca/Leander in full ‘let me love her’ mode) and into the shelter with Ida (a whole other blog post will follow on Ida).

I noticed Aragorn make the same noise as Leander through his cheeks for a second so seeing how desperate Millie was, she was kushed down and almost immovable, we let him in to be with her. He is a funny chap and seemed more interested in what Leander was doing in the shelter than the hot chica smelling his rear end. Finally though somehow he got it and they mated and we all got very excited and some of us were a little grossed out at the anatomy of a stud male. We did leave them alone for a time but Dolores was lined up at the gate so he also mated her and all three are in a separate area tonight to see if the mating will be repeated and hopefully successful.

So that is our story of how the five year old stud male finally lost his virginity.

Small successes are still successes.

Training today was fun. Although I really missed my training buddy Alexis. I worked with the boys starting with Aragorn and Leander in the pen. Aragorn was not interested in clicker training so I didn’t press him to be haltered either. I just want him to relax inside the pen. He is a tricky one but I am going to take the slow approach with him.

Leander quite enjoyed the clicker training although he was very v e r y   s l o w. I used the same method of holding the halter up, to encourage him to hold his head and then click, as I do with William. Considering this was his first time doing it he was great. I went on the mid line catch him to halter him, first time in so long I’ve tried it as I had reverted back to using the wand method, and then led him through the hurdle passage. It felt really good to be out there doing it again.

William was up next doing a new variation on clicker training. I had just been holding the halter and putting it over his nose but I realised I still need to mid line catch him. So we’ve effectively moved back a stage. Not that it matters. Todays method was holding up the halter helper and when he holds himself/his head near my hand and the helper I click. I also progressed to putting my other hand on the other side of his neck. Not touching him though as he was very very nervous. I also started clicker training him to accept the first touch of the mid line catch.

I worked a little with Roger but he is very nervous in the pen so we only did a tiny amount and then left it on a good note.

I’ve saved reporting the best part of the session for last. I invited Marmite into the pen. Although I had to move everyone else first as both Leander and WIlliam assert their dominance over him at every opportunity. I went slowly but like William he loves clicker training and is very bright so I had the best quickest results with him. In fact he loved it so much I managed to put the halter helper on him and take it off again all through clicker training and he held his calm. So so happy with him.

I can also report that none of the other boys really care for apples except for William who goes crazy for them.

Last night I thought I should press pause on the Outdoor Learning Centre for young people on the Autism spectrum…

What Outdoor Learning Centre? Isn’t this just an occasional blog about training alpacas?

Well it started out that way. But then I started having ideas.

It all started from being frustrated that our 3 boys prefer to be inside (often plugged into a screen- PC, mobile, TV, anything with angry birds or Minecraft) even though we live in the middle of nowhere. I want them to love being outside. Like I do.

Our middle son has High Functioning Autism. That’s the diagnosis you get when a child has significant developmental delays and is verbal. We’ve been on a steep learning curve ever since we started the diagnosis process (it is a long arduous process). I will come back to our story later, in a future post…The main point is I’m now in the autism world and I’m driven to help them be as capable as they can, to access all the best chances they can.

I know I haven’t posted much recently let alone posted anything about an Outdoor Learning Centre so bear with me while I try my best to explain what I am on about.

For the last few months I have been beavering away writing business plans and dreaming up crowdfunding plans and phoning banks for loans and emailing lawyers for advice all so we could buy an amazing piece of land here in West Cornwall to start this ere Outdoor Learning Centre for young people on the Autism Spectrum. Hence why no blog posts.

The land has 2 polytunnels and two workshops (one is even set up to train alpaca!) and water with the spring source just behind one of the workshops and the stream running beside one of the fields. !!! It is amazing! Just what I have been dreaming of for years and years.

The idea is this; buy the land, set up a few yurt for ‘ready to go family camping’ to pay the loan and then apply for funding to offer alpaca assisted therapy sessions to children on the autism spectrum as well as offer horticulture training to young adults with autism who have found themselves on the other side of the education system without a job and empty days (not something that anyone with autism likes).

I know it is possible. Most of the prep work is done. I just need to pull it all together and raise the cash (!!!). The film company is even booked in to come in a week to make a little movie about us (AHHH!!!). I completely believe in it so why last night did I think I should press pause for long while…(which would mean lose the land, cancel the film, alienate/lose all the people who I’ve already asked for help…). Well, the truth is I don’t know if there is enough of me to do this. I had a stressful day with the boys off school with the strike being reminded how even a simple thing like going from my mums house with the boys to a shop to lunch with a friend collecting the cat from the vet means I am exhausted the whole day. I had to remind myself of the article I read last year about research saying being an Autism ‘Mum’ (parent!) meant I suffered the same amount of stress as a soldier with Post Traumatic Stress disorder (Ohhhh light bulb moment).

So my question today is can I really manage this??? It will be a lot of work. Is it better to try or stop before I start for real?

With love and patience for all our bad days, our misgivings and mistakes and for trying to dream a little bit too big for ourselves!

Training updates and successes with apples.

I can’t believe we have been quiet here for so long as so much has been happening.

Training is going amazingly well. Alexis and I have taken Susie out around the field together and best of all we have discovered a secret weapon to use with Susie. Apples! She is very happy to have the halter put on and to be lead out when she is offered pieces of apple every 5 to 10 metres. It is so exciting and fulfilling to watch this transformation. Thank you to Alexis for working this out.

We have both been working with Leander in the walkway and will be taking him out into the field on our next training session. He is much more relaxed once he has been haltered but he is still hiding in the corner of the pen when I halter him. So I need to work on my own handling skills to improve the experience for him and reduce his anxiety.

With William, Roger and Marmite we have been focusing on clicker training. They absolutely love it. So much so, that we are using the halter as the target with amazing results in just a few sessions. William loves clicker training so much that mid way through a session he is reacting to the clicker (which produces dopamine and serotonin in the brain) and moving straight back to the halter instead of accepting his food reward. Unless, that is, I train with apples as we did in the last (freezing) session which sends him into a frenzy. Which begs the question;

Do apples contain something other than fructose which is a stimulant??

We have also found our dream piece of land and are looking at how we can finance it. Which means lots of time spent on the phone and typing business plans and finances. If we can pull it off it will be amazing so please wish us luck.

We also met with Stephen over Christmas to talk more about the film Tommy.com would like to make about the project. Filming has been pencilled in for early March….