It can be tough to gather enthusiasm for playing with llamas in the dead of winter, but last winter we tried something that was voted by kids, parents, and llamas, as “one of the funnest things we ever did”.
We made simple harnesses for our llamas and taught them to pull toboggans!
Flash enjoyed winter fun as much as the kids did.
Here’s what our harnesses look like. We bought 7 metres of 1.5″ nylon webbing for each harness, and two large plastic buckles. I added two carabiniers to the ends of the tug lines, but they aren’t strictly necessary. Besides that, you’ll need a pair of scissors, a stapler, and a lighter or book of matches. Almost any home sewing machine can handle this job, with heavy-woven needles and ordinary thread.
No, this isn’t a grossly fat llama! It’s Perdrix, 11.5 months pregnant, who graciously consented to model.
Assemble your scissors, webbing, stapler, a helper if possible, and the llama.
Do the front cinch strap first. Put it around the llama so it lies just behind the withers. Staple it three times – once on each end of the strap to mark where the buckle goes, and then staple it together so it stays on the llama.
Cut the webbing. Be sure to leave lots to sew the buckle on and adjust the tightness.
Do the back cinch the same way.
Now take the remaining webbing and wrap it around the llama from back to front to back again. Staple it onto the cinch straps.
Note that the horizontal strap is attached to the cinches rather high. This is to keep the chest strap in place in that little hollow between the llama’s throat and chest, and to keep the tug lines from getting tangled in her back legs.
If I was making this harness again, I’d rotate that front cinch strap so the buckle was closer to the horizontal strap and further away from her elbow, but it’ll do. Obviously this isn’t a heavy-duty weight-pulling harness, or a harness that she’s going to be wearing day in and day out for weeks, or it would have padding, but for training and games, it’s perfect.
Once it’s all stapled together, take it off the llama. To do this, pull the cinch strap staples apart (don’t worry, that’s why you stapled them three times, they’ll still be marked where you should put the buckles), and gently lift the rest over the llama’s head. Now you’ll sew it.
Here’s a secure way to sew these joins. I use this “box” stitch pretty much everywhere.
Finally, use the lighter or match to melt all your raw edges so they don’t fray.
The hardest part of making this harness, I think, is figuring out how to thread the webbing through the buckles!
It took me 41 minutes to make this harness, not counting shopping, but counting catching the llama, finding the stapler, returning it to where it should have been in the first place, and changing the needle and thread on the sewing machine. With our 4-H kids, I measured, and the kids stapled and then took their own harnesses home and sewed them themselves.
This particular harness was donated as a prize for the Agribition show, but if you didn’t win it, make your own and get started having some fun with your llama!