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Elia Doyle

Posted on 21 November 2010

web Elia Doyle with Llama

The almost-12-year-old girl, who, since March, has worked regularly with llamas at the Long Island Livestock Company in Yaphank. Doyle lives in Sag Harbor and attends the Ross School, and last month, she traveled to Springfield, Mass. where she took second place in her division in the llama show at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Mass (a.k.a. The Big E).

Why do you choose to show llamas?

They’re just really big warm creatures and you can cuddle up to them and they’re friendly.

But there’s not exactly a lot of llamas hanging out around Sag Harbor — how did you find a place where you could work with them?

My mom and I went to Riverhead because I was going to go to sleep away camp there. There was a big sign for a fiber fair, and we went to that, and met this lady Tabbethia Haubold [of Long Island Livestock Company]. She had little slide shows and showed us all the kids that showed her llamas and she said I could try it.

Were you immediately sold on the idea?

I had seen llamas before at the Hampton Classic and thought it would be cool.

So why do people keep llamas anyway?

You make money on the hair.

What’s the difference between llamas and alpacas?

They’re more soft, but alpacas are like dumb bunnies. They’ve got these big pudgy faces, and llama have really fine faces.

What kind of commitment does it take to work with llamas?

During the school year, I have to wake up at six in the morning every Saturday to go to Yaphank. In summer, it was on Thursday evenings. It’s fun because they also have a camp that goes on two weeks every summer, where you do more care and de-worm — you get more intense with the llama care.

Do you work just with one llama all the time?

There’s one llama I like a lot. His name is Double. His full show name is Double Take. We were born three weeks apart in the same year. And he has the same hair color as me.

When showing llamas, what are some of the specifics that you are judged on?

There’s showmanship, and that’s how you present yourself — straight posture, eye on the judge and how well your llama’s put together. For showmanship you have to get your llama all neat and spiffed up. There’s also trail and pack, which is how well they carry a pack, and PR (public relations) which is how friendly and approachable your llama is. There’s also obstacle, which is getting your llama to stay focused and how well the llama communicates while you go through things like gates and pole structures with fabric hanging from it and a bell. It’s hard to make a llama do that. But he and I trust each other. More advanced courses have things like confetti distractions.

You competed in the Junior Youth Group. What prize did you win, officially and were you shocked when you heard you had won?

I knew I probably wouldn’t win anything, but I didn’t mind — it was all for the experience. I won for overall reserve grand champion – which is second best in the category. It was my first show. I didn’t believe it at first, I was kind of scared. We were sitting on a haystack while the judges announced who won. My friend Rowan had just gotten grand champion and I was congratulating him. They announced it and I was shocked and ran up there.

How do you choose what llama to work with?

It’s like people — some are a little insane and some are really easy. You have to get the one that fits you. One of them, Pippin, doesn’t like to be touched around the face. But a kid named Jack Stoddard has worked with Pippin and is now able to do teeth.

Lets’ talk about spitting – among the llamas I mean, not the other competitors

They usually spit at each other, not people. They’ll lip and then they tip their head up and their ears go back and it’s a whole case scenario where you can tell something’s going to happen.

Have you ever gotten hit?

I got spat on once by a horse but not a llama. They don’t like to do it because it’s kind of like throwing up. They don’t spit at people unless your really bug them. If one of them is about to spit you can snap your fingers and sometimes it will stop. I almost got spat on once though when I was between two llamas in a fight.

Do they fight a lot?

The females don’t really care. They just eat and sleep and watch their kids. It’s mostly the males that fight. Tabbethia has one that used to be used for mating, but he still thinks he is. He’s this huge tall male llama, all back and white with long dreads. He’s very intimidating.

What do llamas eat?

They don’t have teeth on the top, they have an under bite and eat grass and stuff. At the farm, they get sweet feed with molasses and honey in it.

So are you working on your parents to allow you to keep llamas in the backyard?

Well, there are mini-llamas that are like a Shetland pony you can keep in the house. They put socks on their feet so they don’t scratch the floor. And they do get along with dogs, so that’s good.

Have you managed to get any of your friends interested in working with llamas?

I’ve taken a bunch of friends, but my best friend Emma thinks I’m still a loon.

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