It was Dr.Charmian Wright, a Vet and camel-trainer from Utah, USA, who first described to me the calming effect of putting a hobble on a camelid. Frankly, I did not believe her, at least, I did not think it could work for llamas, but I was persuaded to have a go. The design I came up with, involved a webbing cuff around each fetlock incorporating a D-ring sitting in the hollow at the back. A belt was then passed from ring to corresponding ring, across the withers. The llama was asked to kush and the slack taken up so that he could only "stand" on his knees. At this point another belt was threaded through the bent knees and passed over the withers. When tightened, the llama was completely immobile.
I remember the first time I tried this because, three years on, it is still the most moving experience of my llama-ownership:
I decided to try the experiment on Dillon, a biddable but very nervous animal. I fitted the cuffs, asked him to kush, tightened everything up and stood back, expecting blind panic, or worse, when he found he could not rise. What actually happened amazed me. Dillon attempted to rise, decided he couldn't... and sank back into what can only be descibed as total serenity. No, he wasn't frozen with fear; he was soon eating carrots from my hand. He was totally, totally relaxed.
I am still at a loss to explain it. To some extent, I've seen a similar reaction with all four boys when I've put them in the chute (really just a very narrow stall where they cant turn round) and wondered what it is all about. Very strange for a flight animal!
I add this piece written by a llama owner in Washington State. I found it in an Internet Llama Chatroom...
Feliz, our kush and struggle girl while you trim toenails, TAUGHT us a lesson today. After all these years of fussing with her feet, prying them out for trimming, listening to her scream and wearing the green............she stood PERFECTLY STILL, NO NOISE, not one PITU in the air......................I blindfolded her. I never once, in all this time thought about using it with Feliz. I thought we were destined to endure the experience. Well, it was amazing. Dan started with the back legs and I held the blindfold in place and rubbed her neck. She wasn't even tense. One foot got us excited, by the second we were almost giddy. After all four were done and I took the blindfold off, you could see the joy and peace in Feliz's face. She strutted away like a brand new llama. She was calm and collected. She must wonder why it has taken us so long to get our human lightbulbs turned on. I am so sorry Feliz for being slow. She must believe in miracles and is happy that her humans are finally learning a thing or two about care.
What a GREAT DAY!