Dorthe Peloquin was having a little trouble getting socks on her llama.
The nearly 7-foot-tall animal seemed a bit reluctant at first, taking a step or two away as its owner advanced, but Peloquin was undeterred.
Patiently, she coaxed the llama to lift its front feet – left, then right – while she stretched a long, blue tube sock over each cloven hoof. In a minute or two the indignity was complete, and the llama stood, head held high, as Peloquin looked on proudly.
“That was pretty good,” Peloquin said. “Not worth the full 10 points, but it’s a very difficult trick.”
Perhaps it goes without saying, but not many llamas would put up with that sort of thing.
HF Terry, however, is not just any llama. The 8-year-old male is a 14-time grand champion show llama and Peloquin’s pride and joy.
“Terry will do just about anything I want him to do,” she said. “As long as I don’t get nervous, he won’t get nervous.”
The Peloquins – Dorthe and her husband, Wayne – have been in the show llama business since 2004, when they bought their first pair while visiting a state fair in Fletcher, N.C.
These weren’t the exotic, tawny animals, decorated with chocolate speckles and caramel spots, that now populate their farm, Peloquin’s Perch, on Hardy McManus Road in Evans.
“One was plain brown and one was kind of a paint,” she said.
The llamas were purchased to protect the other animals on their farm from dogs that kept invading their property, she said. Despite their looks, llamas can be fierce protectors.
“A llama can’t take on a pack of dogs, but it can handle a single dog pretty well,” she said.
However, seeing the llamas in the show at the fair planted a seed, and soon Peloquin was training her llamas to compete. Within a few months she had entered her first show, also in North Carolina, but that didn’t work out the way she planned.
She said the judges took a look at her plain brown llama and pulled her quietly aside.
“They escorted us to the exits,” she said.
Peloquin, a physician, was determined to succeed. She bought a better llama and got to work.
HF Terry was not quite 2 years old when she began to train him in 2006. By the end of the year they had won their first show and continued to rack up a string of championships over the next two years.
“In 2008 he took the whole show ring by storm,” she said.
In 2009, HF Terry was awarded the top three awards by the Southern States Llama Association and continues to bring home trophies from the show llama circuit. Peloquin also has other winners in her pasture, which includes 23 llamas, with two more on the way.
“I train them from birth,” she said. “I’ve got my 2- and 3-month-olds training in obstacles already.”
Training llamas for show includes a lot of odd business, such as having them stand on metal tubs and trying on socks, but it mostly involves handling the animal in ways to make it comfortable with new situations and strange experiences.
Peloquin spends a little time each day moving among her animals and handling the babies, or crias, to get them accustomed to human touch.
She trains them to wear halters and negotiate obstacles such as jumps, ramps and wooden platforms so the animals will move through each calmly and without hesitation.
“I have pretty high expectations, but a lot of my young llamas are doing advanced maneuvers already,” she said.
She has the trophies to show for it. One upstairs room is decorated with purple and blue ribbons from wall to wall.
The next show is SSLA Spring Hillbilly Hoedown on March 2 in Perry, Ga., which will include llama from as far away as Indiana and Michigan, said show superintendent Kitty Tuck-Hampel.
“We will have between 100 and 120 llamas,” she said, explaining there are only about four other shows nationwide that are bigger.
“For a llama show in the Southeast, it is a pretty good size. We are blessed.”
Tuck-Hampel said people who have trouble imagining what a llama show consists of should think of a dog show and picture llamas instead.
Peloquin said she was looking forward to the show, but her new, larger trailer won’t arrive in time for it. She will be limited to taking about five llamas.
Her big winner, HF Terry, still competes, but is moving toward retirement. Peloquin’s Perch has a deep bench, however, with U Rock, Razzle Dazzle and Siriusly Rockin’! stepping up to fill his socks.
“I have enough llamas to keep winning for years to come,” she said.