The time to trim our alpacas' toenails has been creeping up on us so we decided today was a good day to finally tackle that job. We'd done some practice trimming at Jo's Fleece Fields so we'd been able to ease our minds a bit about the process, but we were still nervous because we're still learning exactly how to handle our alpacas. But toenail trimming time is a good time for us to get more practice haltering the boys, trimming their nails, and generally trying to get a hold of them when they don't want to be gotten a hold of.
We shamelessly lured them into the barn with their daily mineral treat. We've been insisting on feeding them their minerals in the barn each day for about a month now, and their hay is in the barn so they've already become accustomed to being in there (they were hesitant about it when they first got here). Matt hung out in the pasture while I banged the can to get them in there, and once I walked them to the back he shut the door. As soon as they heard that door begin to close their heads whipped around and started humming. I almost felt guilty for duping them like that. Silverton and Cinnamon immediately began searching out an escape route. Benz, on the other hand, was perfectly content to keep eating his minerals; he could not have cared less.
We decided to begin with him since we knew he'd be the easiest. Going into this, I assumed that all three of them would fight us at least a little bit, with Benz probably being the least difficult. I was wrong. Benz not only didn't even put up a fight, he practically put the halter on himself. Since Matt felt the most comfortable doing the actual trimming we agreed ahead of time that I would hold the boys and he would trim their nails, so I put the halter on Benz and got the fitting right, and then stood there with my arm around his neck, ready and waiting for the moment to come when I knew he'd buck and fight to get out of our grip. It never came. We didn't even have to chase him down to get the halter on him, he just stood there and let us wrap our arms around him. It took about one minute for Matt to trim up his toenails, and during the ordeal Silverton kept searching out an escape route that he was sure he'd missed while Cinnamon hummed up a storm so loud you'd have thought we were going to kill him. At one point Cinnamon came up to Benz and sniffed his nose and face as if to say, "don't worry, buddy, I'll get you out! I swear! We'll avenge this horror!" And Benz's response seemed to be, "whatever, dude, I'm getting a pedicure. Really, it's not that big a deal."
Benz was done and easy, so we thought Cinnamon was our next best bet. We sort of assumed Silverton, being the most shy, would be the most difficult, but again -- we were wrong. We got a hold of Cinnamon pretty easily and managed to get the halter on him fairly easily as well. Once we got it on, however, he really made it clear he wasn't happy. He bucked and fought against the halter, pulling this way and that, before we could even get near his feet. I checked to be sure the halter fit him okay and wasn't cutting anything off but it seemed to be all right. We tried to firmly hold him into a balanced standing position but every time Matt would get his foot he'd buck and fight so badly that he'd throw himself and me into the barn walls. So then we tried walking him around the inside of the barn with his halter on via the lead for a minute or two, hoping to get him feeling okay with it. He seemed fine but then when we went back to trimming he kicked and bucked and nearly knocked me down. And when he wasn't doing that he was cushing (going down onto the ground with his legs under him), which makes it impossible to trim his nails.
We went into this assuming that it wouldn't go smoothly the first time and agreed right off the bat that if we didn't get all the boys today, we'd be okay with that. What we didn't expect was that the boy we wouldn't get to would be Cinnamon. We took off his halter and let go of the idea that today he'd have his toenails trimmed. So we moved on to Silverton, who turned out to be fairly easy to hold on to and halter -- he really didn't resist us holding on to him, and he was perfectly fine with the halter, only humming a tiny bit as I fussed with his fitting. We had some minor struggles with him at first, but after maneuvering him into a space where he couldn't really buck around too much he pretty much stood still and let me hold on to him while Matt did his front legs.
It was here we noticed that Silverton's nails look a lot different than we'd been noticing. He's got a pretty big crack in one of them on his front foot, and we noticed that as he slammed his feet onto the concrete floor of the barn trying to keep us from trimming them a couple of his back nails split and broke along the sides. While I was too busy holding him to see, Matt said that his nails looked like they were in pretty bad shape. Fortunately their previous owners Don and Jo are always available with questions, so we'll be checking with him to see how normal this is. He's not limping and appears to have no problems at all with his feet so I can only assume that either this is simply how his nails are (how many of us humans have dry, splitty nails naturally? Raise your hands) or that for whatever reason they've split and cracked a little but they're not hurting him.
Matt moved on to his back legs and managed to get most of the nails trimmed on one of his back legs, but the other leg Silverton simply refused to let get trimmed. This one had a particularly splitty and cracked toenail so we're wondering if maybe there was some sensitivity there. We tried all kinds of tricks to get it trimmed but it just wasn't going to happen today, so we unhaltered him, opened the barn doors, and let the boys back out into the pasture.
All things considered it was successful, or at least we felt like it was. For our first time without any supervision or help from other alpaca owners we were able to get them each haltered and get most of the toenail trimming down. Since Cinnamon the Drama Queen was anxious even from the haltering stage my guess is that he's just not comfortable with us haltering him right now, so we're going to begin haltering him a little more regularly without any other things attached to it -- just halter him, walk him around a little bit, make him stand while we examine his feet, and then let him go. Since it's been three months that we've had them we can't let his nails go too far before getting trimmed, but we're going to try again next weekend and we figure we'll just keep trying regularly until he finally figures out that we're not trying to savagely murder him.