Once our young llamas have completed their basic training, they begin what we call 'field training'. This includes full conditioning and negotiation of obstacles we typically find in our backcountry as well as willingness to carry odd sized, oversized and awkward, banging, clanging loads. We are fortunate that our ranch borders public lands where we are able to train on the open high desert steppe and adjoining forest lands. Our llamas negotiate jumps, ducks, water, mud, brush, slots in cliffs, downed fences, steep slopes, rock rubble (lots and lots of rock rubble), cows, and even rattlesnakes. We do this on cow paths, deer and elk trails, jeep tracks and cross-country. Our males and geldings are further required to successfully complete several pack trips before their field training is complete.
As a measure of our success, we expect all our males and geldings to earn a PLTA Master Pack Llama Certificate from the Pack Llama Trial Association (PLTA), a process that requires at least four years of training and conditioning. Selected males are further conditioned to earn the ultimate Elite Pack Llama certificate. Females earn at least a Basic Pack Llama certificate.
(Learn more about PLTA certification standards here.)
Once our llamas have demonstrated proficiency in the backcountry, we put final touches on their training by expecting them to do the same in challenging social situations such as parades and festivals.