MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — There may have been just a few friends and family in the stands and mostly uncooperative animals, but the seven 4-Hers who took part in the llama and alpaca show Friday were enjoying themselves anyway.
“It’s just a fun thing for the kids,” said Linda Jenks, co-superintendent of the llama and alpaca program. “It’s a good way for the kids to learn about llamas and alpacas.”
And that’s exactly what the students did.
“This is our first time, so this is all new,” said Joshua Vandenberg, 15. Vandenberg earned grand champion in showmanship and took second in the obstacle course.
One by one the animals hesitated to step onto any of the obstacles, even with a pleading tug on the reigns by the students, follow any sort of path or even avoid a roll in the dirt.
For most of the students, showing llamas and alpacas was a relatively new hobby. So even as the animals stumbled their way through the course, the students guiding them had smiles from ear to ear.
“They won’t go on the cinder blocks,” Elizabeth Yelland, 16, said with a laugh. “I think the thing to work on is their legs being touched.”
Karah Ring, 13, was reserve champion in showmanship.
Overall winner, which combined the showmanship event with two rounds of an obstacle course, was Eden Stewart.
The obstacle course were split into two rounds, a longer course and a shorter one in which the animal was draped with a rug to mimic “back packing.”
“The real use for llamas, and alpacas too, is back packing,” said Angel Graves, co-superintendent. “They not only carry blankets, but supplies.”
Caring for the animals is a bit different than others. They mostly consume just hay and water and require only an annual shearing, but llamas and alpacas also demand a trusting relationship with the student.
“They are really easy to care for and the more you handle them, they’re very personable animals,” Jenks said.