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Llamas and horses

From: Amelia

Dear Jessica --

My friends and I spend a lot of time riding on the unparalleled trails at Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Northern California.

Recently, some llama packing parties have come onto the trails, and there have been some untoward incidents of horses bolting, riders being dumped, etc. In my own experience, and based on a lot of anecdotal info, it would seem that llamas and horses are afraid of each other.

What do you know about these interspecies interactions? What's t trail rider to do when we encounter llamas in the wilderness?

Horse sense is so wonderful! Amelia

Hi Amelia! Thanks for the kind words about HORSE-SENSE. ;-)

Lucky you to have access to those trails -- they're gorgeous!

Llamas and horses don't have to be afraid of each other, and they can, and do, learn to accept and tolerate each other. The key words here are LEARN and ACCEPT. Horses don't like unfamiliar animals, and it doesn't matter whether the animals in question are llamas, donkeys, cows, or -- MUCH scarier than llamas -- ostriches and emus.

If you want your horses to accept the presence of llamas on the trails, you're going to have to find some way to get those horses accustomed to the sight, smell, and movement of the llamas. The easiest way to do this is to pasture your horse next to a llama farm, or to put a llama (borrowed or even rented) into your own pasture.

If you can't manage that, try to make friends with someone who runs packing parties, and see whether you can't manage some kind of horse-llama introduction. Once a horse knows ONE llama socially, it will find it easier to accept other llamas without that panic reaction.

Horses are afraid of two kinds of things: things that they KNOW are dangerous, and things that MIGHT POSSIBLY BE dangerous. Llamas are in the second category. If you can arrange for your horses to meet some llamas, preferably in a pasture situation without well-meaning people to distract them, they'll figure out that the llamas are different, but not dangerous, and possibly even boring.

At many horse breeding farms, a llama is considered to be standard equipment for the "baby pastures". Coyotes and coy-dogs will chase and eat young foals, but the presence of a llama is a great deterrent, and llamas are quite aggressive in their defense of "their" foals. The foals that grow up in these pastures are going to accept llamas calmly -- to them, llamas are just pasture buddies.


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