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The camel community in this country is small and scattered. Most camel owners have been frustrated with the lack of information on training their camels and do their best to figure things out on their own.
Things have been improving for camel owners with a few camel training schools and clinics now being offered each year, and there is much more information on the internet. A lot of which can be found here.






 
 
 

 

The State of Camel Training,
And How to Improve it.


 In the last twenty years or so, there has been a sweeping revolution in horse training. Many “horse whisperers” have started to give clinics in the last several decades across the country and, indeed, throughout the world. Articles have been written, books published, videos made, websites created. In a way unparalleled in history, millions of horse aficionados throughout the world have learned to better understand horses and horse training. Of course, there was a lot of resistance at first. But over time, as horse owners tried new techniques and allowed themselves to be educated, these methods became commonplace. Not only just horse trainers, but everyday horse people as well, started to talk in terms of “natural horsemanship,” “resistance free training,” “join up,” “levels of pressure,” and “feel, timing and balance.” People like Dorrance, Hunt, Parelli, Lyons, Parker, Shrake and Branamen have been our mentors and have enriched our lives. Throughout history, there were enlightened trainers such as these who promoted similar methods (Xenophon lived over 2000 years ago), but it was difficult to get the word out. Until now -- until the advent of mass communication. I like to think it also has to do with the overall state of our emerging consciousness, our hopefully increasing empathy with other living beings.

Who has been the biggest winner in this revolution? The horse. About time, I say. The debt we humans owe to the horse in shaping the course of our destiny and history is incalculable. Humans have been great winners, also – we are learning to better understand, communicate with, and enjoy our fellow creatures.

Lest we be too hard on trainers of the past, the “breakers” and “cowboy”; trainers, remember that their lot was not an easy one. They often had to figure things out for themselves, and had to get a great deal done in short amount of time, in a time when survival was much tougher than it is today. We are lucky these days – we have the luxury of training animals just for fun, rather than for survival. This freedom is allowing us to embrace new, fairer, more effective methods while letting go of the old ones.

Not that the old methods of training don't work – they do. It always amazes me how many different training methods can achieve similar results. But these “new” methods (for simplicity, I will lump them all under the term “natural horsemanship,”;) allow us to have a fairer partnership with a fuller, more gratifying understanding of the horse's mind. They allow us to communicate better and work more as a team with our animals.

 
 
 

So what does all of this have to do with camel training?

The camel community in this country is small and scattered. Many people who own camels are not horse people. They have done their best to figure things out on their own, sometimes with remarkable results, but have been frustrated with the lack of information on camel training. They haven't thought to look to horse trainers for guidance (“but they are not camel trainers!” I hear them insist). They have missed out on all of the fun we have been having in the horse-training world.

Consequently, it seems that camel training in the U.S. at this time is where horse training was twenty or thirty years ago.

To these people, I say, there is a whole new world out there. An interesting, effective, exciting world. The information is everywhere. Just substitute “camel” for “horse.” Learn about horse training, and you will be way ahead when it comes to camel training. Sure, there are some dialect differences (you don't usually train horses to cush). Most of these you will have to figure out. But the underlying language is the same.

Here's a little preview. Maybe it will spark you interest. These very basic concepts, in one form or another, are examples of the ideas included in all “natural horsemanship” schools of thought:

  1. Humans are predators. Horses (and camels!) are prey animals. They act the way they do because they think it is necessary in order to survive. This may seem simplistic, but the implications are enormous.
  2. To shape an animal's behavior, we must recognize, respect, and reward “the smallest change and the slightest try.”
  3. To ask an animal to respond to a command, we must apply increasing levels of pressure until we get the desired response. This is the powerful language that herd animals use with each other, and the easiest language for them to understand. Once the animal responds (the smallest change…), we must instantly release the pressure.
  4. Release of pressure is the reward. Timing is everything.
  5. Use as much pressure as necessary but as little as possible.

These statements are just a glimpse of the general concepts. There's about a zillion more details that are out there for the learning.

 
 
 

So where do you start?

Of all the trainers mentioned above, I like the Parelli method the best. His step-by-step information trains people from the foundation up; it is clear, concise, and easy to follow; and he has a wonderful understanding of the horse's mind. See Parelli.com

Learn about Parelli's “seven games.” In fact, just start with the first four of the seven games. See Seven Games Get the seven games videotape. If you like that stuff, you can go on from there.

Be open to new knowledge. Life is too short to figure it all out by yourself. Appreciate your animals. Enjoy learning to communicate with them better. Both of you will be ahead.

As Kipling said, “run and find out.”

Stress free cushing of a camel

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Phone: 435-649-6273

 
 
Special thanks go out to Charmian Wright, D.V.M. and all of the other good folk that have contributed articles for helping all of us in keeping our camels healthier and happier.