Sunday 18 April 2010

White coats on the cat walk.

Your first steps into the show ring with your own alpacas is a big day. The final weeks of planning on the livestock front was parallelled with preparation of the trailer.

Beginning with weaning, which was a delicate operation on our small plot, and brought to a swift, though happy conclusion by harsh weather, the girls had to have their halter training accelerated. The trailer which I'd only had for three weeks needed smartening up, and attention to the brakes. We were fortunate for the halter training, and for the paintwork and artwork on the trailer, to have a couple of weeks of fine weather, so I entered the show weekend comfortable that I'd done all I could to be ready.... and then the remote control on the car immobiliser started playing up - despite new batteries for both key fobs, one failed to come to life - so after a fractious friday, I made sure of breakdown cover for car and trailer.

The show ground is only an hour away from us, so compared to those from Devon and Cornwall, we had a fairly civilised alarm set for 6 o'clock. The girls were surprised by a 6.45 call to come for breakfast, and we were disappointed to see they had a covering of frost on their backs, and were far from looking their best, however it meant we had un-broken blue skies. So it was into the trailer and a straightforward trip to the far side of Bristol.

We were greeted and inspected by a calm Nick Weber, and unloading was uncomplicated - we were 'pen-neighbours' to the Empty Patou, who of course were appearing today, so we didn't meet, and West Webburn Alpacas - it was good to meet Steve and Diane (Llama Karma & Alpaca Chatter). There was plenty of time before our Class, so it was a case of parading the girls in the warming sunshine to dry off, and though they showed their boredom with concrete grazing, slowly they improved, so by the time we were called around 11 o'clock, they were presentable.

As we queued to enter the ring, I still hadn't found anyone to take some photo's of our moments in the ring - until I spotted Peter from Rosewyn Alpacas - they had overtaken us on the motorway, and I used that tenuous introduction to impose on him half an hour of photography for which Peter, thank you, and credit for these ringside photo's goes to you.

Being white, junior females, they were always going to be in plentiful company, and so it was that they were in a Class of 15. Both paraded well, but when it came to inspection, Ambrosia decided to revolve around me, until a well-placed knee from judges assistant, Karen, kept her still. Autumn Gold meanwhile, found it all so long-winded that she had to sit down between inspections.

As the judge called forward the chosen few for placings, he kept returning to Ambrosia for further examination, and I dared to hope we might get into 6th place, but it wasn't to be, and our introduction to the show ring was over - it was comforting to know that she has some qualities worth considering.

It was a great day, we learnt alot, and we've progressed further - next, it's the North Somerset Show on May 3rd. It was pleasing to feel welcome, and not come across officiousness or anxty organisers. Thanks to all involved from SWAG, for a smooth-running, relaxed and pleasurable event.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Show preps.

It's full-on getting ready for the SWAG Show this saturday. The girls had Lambivac jabs at the weekend - all were very good, except young Autumn Gold who wriggled like an eel, and with her long baby fleece was impossible to get a clear 'tent' of skin visible, and then would kush.

They have had daily halter leading onto the lawn familiarising the route to the trailer, with the bonus of lush grass as a treat, and the adults join them for that.

I've been sprucing up the trailer, and though I've checked the show rules, beyond the familiar assessment of conformation of the animal, handle and fineness of fleece etc. can find no mention of trailer condition, or 'most improved' trailer...oh well, I'm sure the girls will appreciate it...

Mrs. Smallholder is even dusting off her laboratory coat, to be rejuvinated as a show coat.

The weather has been a great help for preparations.

Let the show begin.

Monday 5 April 2010

Ramps, rivets and reversing...

What a great weekend - four days off the day job. The weather wasn't great by a long shot, but hey ho, it didn't prevent much 'work' being done.

We started with a bit of civil engineering, by building and turfing a ramp as shown in the photo - we've got three flights of steps from the top of the back garden and lawn down to the house and the front - the field is at the back of course, and our vehicle access to the field is via another field (owned by others) where the horses have churned up both gateways, so the chance of getting our trailer in, in wet weather is zero. So to get the 'pacas to the trailer should be easier through the garden - hence the ramp - saving the trial 'til next weekend so that the turf can bed-in.

I've spent some time tidying up the trailer, replaced some rivets, and touched-up the paint, and went for some reversing practice at a local disused airfield - our lane is quite narrow, and the drive is at right-angles, with walls each side, so not much room for error or adjustment - when I got back after buying the trailer we un-hitched it and pushed it once it was half in, but yesterday, I got it in with the car at the second attempt, so it is possible.

I've had the weanlings on halters and had all the girls on the lawn for some long grass. I'm wondering how else to halter train for showing - should I lead them to the flapping washing line? or should I enlist the neighbours banging dustbin lids like they train police dogs and horses? Should I bellow through a road-cone to emulate the commentators tannoy? How will they react to a number hung around their neck? (not impressed, if the lead rope is anything to go by).

With all the wet weather, I've had to enter them in both the white and fawn classes, to cover my options on the day...