Llama Linda Ranch
Alpacas and Llamas
Linda Hayes   60 Meadow View Lane   Glenwood Springs, CO 81601    970.379.4576   hayestees@sopris.net

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IT’S SHOW TIME "Getting Your Llama Ready for the Show"

By Linda Hayes

It seems like every year when the shows start, we look at our filthy llamas and panic. How do we get them clean? Everyone has their own ideas, tips and methods. I’ve tried to collect them and give you a step by step procedure. If your llama isn’t real dirty you won’t need to do all of this. Just pick out the steps that you want to use and give them a try. It won’t be long before you have your own grooming methods to share. You will also find that the llamas with guard hair are a gift from God, they take so much less work! If you are showing a llama with the true Suri lock structure (the ringlets that hang separately in pencil shaped locks) you won’t want to follow this. These instructions are for cleaning fluffy or “crimpy” type animals.

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You can’t start too early. Just take some Miracle Groom or Llama Groom and spray every few days to keep the llama from picking up dirt. Dirt will shed much easier when heavy grooming starts if you have been spraying them frequently. Even in the off season, try & coat their wool at least once a month. Spray a mist over them and then lift areas of fleece and spray between the fibers. If you have time, use a blower to blow the grooming product in. You will get great coverage that way.

When it’s time to do some serious grooming, get things set up so that the event is not stressful to your llama. Have all your equipment out and ready to use. Try not to leave the llama tied up for too long at a time. Keep a buddy with him for moral support and try and limit sessions to 20 or 30 minutes. Work on one guy for a while then switch to his friend. Groom over several days instead of one marathon session. Offer treats, especially when you are doing “ouchy” things. If you start to lose your temper, quit for a while. You will be doing both of you a favor. Try and have him clean before you get to the show. The new location will be stress enough without having to groom at the same time. Just plan on touching him up, use your “free” time to have fun and sell llamas!

The first thing I do when I start to groom is blow the dust out of the wool with a Circutteer II Blower. Then I take a curry comb & top brush all the leaves and “big stuff” off the outside of their coat. Next I spray deep into the wool using Miracle Groom (or Llama Groom) sprayed into the stream of air from the blower. This disperses the groom into the hair and coats most of the fibers. At the same time the blowing loosens the chaff & dirt & blows it out. You might want to wear a dust mask & scarf, as this is a dusty job.

If you have a light colored animal you may want to wash them. That is the next step. The key to bathing is to get the hair completely wet before pouring on shampoo or conditioner & to rinse them completely. If the shampoo goes on dry hair it will “grab” & be really hard to rinse out. If you use a bluing shampoo you may end up with a lavender llama. Always premix the product in a bucket of water to dissolve lumps. Your llama will stand much better if you have access to warm water. Since it takes so much water to rinse them, many water heaters can’t keep up. If this is the case you might want to just bath half of the llama each day. A special sprayer called the Super Groomer is a real asset to bathing. It hooks to the water hose & has a reservoir that holds shampoo or conditioner. It automatically mixes it in with the water & lets you penetrate the whole coat quite easily.

After wetting the llama thoroughly, work the diluted shampoo (Rio Vista or Kentucky Gold) into the wool squeezing just as if you were washing a good sweater. Don’t use a brush & circular movement. That how we make felt! You may need to add water to get the soap to run down deep against the skin. Brighten light colored llamas with Quick Silver or Brite Lights Shampoo. This takes the yellow out & adds sparkle. After I get them sudsy I let them rest & do the second llama. This gives the soap a chance to work.

When it’s time to rinse I use lots of water and try to squeeze out the suds. When you think you are done you’ll find that there is still lots of soap left so rinse again. With really long wool, I use a bucket of clear water and lift it up against the llama so the wool can be “swished” around in it. This lets the fibers float free and the soap comes out easily.

Once they are free of soap, pour on the diluted conditioner. Rio Vista Conditioner works well. Use lots. Then let the guy rest for about 30 minutes while the conditioner does its job. Rinse out completely & let the llama drip dry. If it’s cold you will need to dry him using a blower. You can squeeze & towel large amounts of water off the llama. This will speed things up but you’ll find that wool dries pretty fast on it’s own. Just make sure he’s not in a draft if you let him drip dry. Putting them out in the sun is the best thing to do.

The toenails trim easily when the llama has been standing in water so right after his bath might be a good time to use the Shear Magic ToeNail Clippers. Cut the excess off the two sides and then cut the end. Don’t do too much at once as the quick grows down into the tip of the nail. If they are real long, cut a little off each day. The quick will recede and you won’t leave bloody footprints.

After drying, if they still have stains, use a dry shampoo spot remover like Bio Groom: Quick Clean or Cowboy Magic. These are like using a dry cleaner to remove stains. Cowboy Magic as well as Miracle Groom can be used to get burs out easier. Just soak them with a heavy concentration & pull burs out while the wool is wet from the product.

Now the real work begins. Brushing out the little pieces that didn’t wash out. I’d start with the blower and Miracle Groom again. You will be surprised at what blows out once the hair is really clean. When you come to mats, pull them apart using any of the combs with strong teeth. These include the Metal 6” Comb, Two-Sided Comb, Sullivan’s Grooming Comb, Easy Comb and Pet Comb. Which you choose really depends on what you get used to using. They all work well to separate the felted fibers. If the mats are really big you will need the Mat Removing Comb which has teeth that cut right through the felt. Be careful with these or you could end up with a really ragged looking coat. Remember, the judge does not care if the llama is groomed clear to the skin. He just wants one to look presentable as a show animal and one that won’t prick him when he does the “hands on” portion of the judging.

Another word of warning. Don’t get over zealous cleaning that area at the base of the neck in front of the withers. It’s easy to pull out so much hair along with the chaff that the llama ends up looking ewe necked. There is no cure…You will have to wait until the hair grows back! Use your Circuteer II more here, in time all that stuff will blow out but it does take t..i..m..e. Your best bet for working on this area is the Grooma Comb with the rotating teeth. It seems to leave more hair on the llama then the other combs.

Once you have picked out the mats and removed the burs, try combing all over with the Grooma Rake or a Pin Brush. These are good for general overall grooming. Intersperse the combing and brushing with the blowing, as it is less stressful to the llama. Keep using the Miracle Groom. I don’t think you can use too much.

Use a Slicker Brush to sperate every fiber and fluff the llama to it’s full potential. The stiffness of the tiny metal bristles varies from brush to brush. Use the soft Tender Slicker if the llama is really clean. If they still need to have debris removed use the stiffer Universal Slicker or the Large Lawrence Slicker. If you have a “modern” llama with crimpy, wavy hair, skip this step. Instead spray on Llama Spritzer until the top hairs are damp. Let nature takes its course and the wool should dry with the natural crimp intact. Just before the show, dampen the top layer of wool with water; add a little Spritzer and let dry. You might even use your hands to “scrunch” in extra waves.

Llama LindaNow you are ready to go to the show. Once there, do a little brushing if need be. Check the knees & callused areas. If they are noticeable try making them blend in using White & Easy or Jet-Black Spray. Just before you enter the ring spray on a light dusting of Final Bloom for a little extra shine. Use Sullivan’s Skip Tooth Comb to smooth out any wayward hairs. Keep a Tiny Comb with you for touch ups just before you enter the ring. Put on your best smile and know that it was all worth it!

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