Stringing is not as easy as simply tying a few llamas together and marching down the trail. Most llamas, especially males, need to be socialized to the concept. All llamas need to be provided specific training. In a string the handler has little or no control of llamas traveling far behind them. Those llamas must be capable of managing competently on their own, especially in long strings where the tail llama can be sixty feet or more behind the handler; dangerous situations can occur in an instant. A fully trained and experienced string llama understands his or her role in keeping such things from happening and dealing with them calmly if they do.
String training begins for our young pack llamas while they are still at their mother's side. They learn to both follow and lead, with her as their partner. Once they have been weaned they begin carrying training saddles and panniers into the backcountry to learn to negotiate backcountry obstacles in a realtime situation. They start their training by working with an experienced mentor llama who shows them the ropes and encourages the youngster. Eventually, they will work in a string of six to eight other llamas in rough cross-country situations. Before their training is considered complete, each llama is required to work in any position in a string and to have done it on multi-day pack trips and in rough cross-country conditions.
Components of String Competence:
- Tolerates other llamas at close quarters
- Tolerates stringer lines tugging, slapping and moving around rump
- Pays attention to group movement and keeps pace
- Avoids becoming entangled in lines or obstacles
- Follows in single file without dragging or shoving
- Remains calm in dangerous situations
- Pays close attention to handler commands and responds quickly and appropriately
- Safely negotiates obstacles without being able to clearly see them