Pueblo County Fair Packgoat Competition
Phil and I have been busy, busy, busy all week, and yesterday was no exception! Yesterday was the day of the annual Pueblo County Fair working goat competition/clinic. Phil and I first competed in this class with Cuzco back in 2008 and were disappointed to find that our only competitors were 4-H kids with their young dairy and market goats even though the class is open to the public. Since then we have withdrawn from competition but have somehow moved into a position of being in charge of the event. Since there are no kids with trained working goats we have moved away from strict competition into more of an open play event where kids can borrow our goats and try the obstacles with animals that somewhat know what they're doing. We brought Finn, Sputnik, and Tigerlily this year and several other kids brought their young dairy and market goats as well.  

I was particularly impressed with this young lady who took her little brother through the obstacle course with their Boer kid. She (and all her siblings for that matter) were very gentle with the goats and helped guide them through rather than dragging them like most kids tend to do. This little goat is being raised with his brother as a working wether prospect. The father hopes to teach them to pull a cart as a team in a couple of years. I'd say this little goat is off to a great start! 

The oldest son in that family was also gentle and understanding--to a fault. He took an immediate shine to Finn, but Finn unfortunately spotted an amateur and immediately took advantage of the situation. Finn, who is usually an overachiever and loves to show off at events like this, instead adopted a tired, ignorant, and almost disabled attitude on the course as his overly kind young handler plied him with ever-more cookies to try to entice him over the simplest of obstacles. Finn got to where he wouldn't look at an obstacle without treats given before, during, and after every effort. It was a classic example of an animal training a human.    

Finn, who is usually a magnificent jumper, stared mournfully at the ground-level end of this pole as though it were ten feet high and covered with spikes. His patient handler wheedled and coaxed until Finn eventually sighed like a martyr and dragged his feet over one at a time with heroic effort.   

Sputnik, on the other hand, could not have been more cooperative. He behaved perfectly for every kid that handled him (and there were quite a few after it became obvious that he was the best at navigating the course). We ended up having a little judged competition and this boy won with Sputnik. The only thing that was sometimes troublesome for Sputnik was the ground tying obstacle. The kids had to park their goat's front feet inside the hula hoop then drop the rope and walk around the cone. Sputnik stood very nicely, but some of the kids were afraid he would leave so they bolted frantically back toward his head to grab him before he could run off. This had the predictable result of making him run off. I was pleased to see that he never ran far or fast so the kids were always able to catch him without help within a few strides.  

This poor girl had a little Alpine doeling who was not trained to lead, let alone walk through an obstacle course. The goat kept sitting or laying down every dozen yards or so. The worst was when the poor, pathetic creature collapsed completely on her side and just laid there like a dead animal until someone picked her up. The girl was very patient with her and never pulled hard on her neck or anything, but the goat was determined not to walk and I felt sorry for the young handler. This is the same talented little girl who did so well getting a reluctant Pac-Man to negotiate the obstacle course at this same event two years ago and who worked with him again last year. She missed Pac-Man and I know she was unhappy with her own goat's attitude.    

So I had her put her goat away and work with mine. She led Tigerlily through very nicely and even won 5th place on the course with Sputnik. But if she'd had Pac-Man she probably would have won. Those two had a very special "love at first sight" bond.
After the obstacle competition, Phil took the kids and goats to the other end of the arena to do a ribbon race while I tallied the scores. It was hilarious! The kids paired up and had one goat between them. They lined up at one end of the arena and there was a bucket full of ribbons at the other end. They had to race down to the bucket with their goat and one kid held the goat steady while the other tied a ribbon to its tail. Once the ribbon was secured they had to race back. 

I did not have a good view of the race from my seat because the truck and trailer that comprised the final obstacle blocked much of the scene. However, I could see the start and finish lines, so I got a brief but hysterically funny glimpse of Sputnik as he tore off at top speed with a kid sailing horizontally behind him in classic Superman-style. The kid was making a downward arc toward the dirt when they disappeared behind the trailer. Sputnik appeared almost instantly on the other side of the vehicle dragging a leash with no kid on it. Soon afterwards both his kids came out from behind the trailer, one of them dusting his pants as he ran. Sputnik waited for them near the bucket where they caught up to him, got the ribbon on his tail, then turned to run back. But as soon as it was time to run, Sputnik took off full blast and once more left his companions trailing behind. He crossed the finish line alone and was disqualified. But I think he may have had the most fun of anybody.    

Here are the kids, tying ribbons to tails before dashing back. 

And here are the winners of the ribbon race! Finn and his kids were in second place but the ribbon fell off Finn's tail less than ten feet from the finish line and they were disqualified. So much for my "speedy" packgoat boys! They were beat by a girl, and a baby one at that!
After the ribbon race and the obstacle course prize-giving, we broke out the wagon and harnesses and gave a little harnessing and hitching lesson to those who were interested. Most of the kids were not, but their parents were fascinated and asked lots of questions. We took the team out of the arena, which was much too deep and dusty for driving, and out into a quiet shaded area nearby. Here I let the kids take turns driving the goats while I walked alongside.  

We used halters instead of bridles for this activity of course, and the goats were very willing and patient with their young drivers.

We made a pretty tight turn here so I helped the young driver by taking the reins ahead of her hands and guiding the goats' heads while cueing Sputnik's outside hip with the whip. The boys are really starting to learn how to turn the wagon properly by crossing their front legs over instead of trying to bend their bodies on a curve. 

The last person to drive was Nick, the father of five wonderful kids whose gentleness and patience with the goats impressed me. The boy Tommy was thrilled to ride behind his dad and hold the long ends of the reins (talk about a backseat driver!) Nick wants to train a goat team to drive but has never driven any animal before. I spent some time showing him how to handle the reins and whip properly. He was a very good learner but of course needs practice. Driving a team is much like playing an instrument. It takes a lot of finesse and coordination to do it well, and these things can only come from spending time at the reins. 
As the perfect wrap-up to a wonderful day at the County Fair, we took the boys to the same Dairy Queen drive-thru that we have traditionally patronized after every Pueblo County Fair packgoat class. The first time we went in 2008, Cuzco was riding in the open bed of the pickup and, it being a slow day, the manager and all the employees came crowding over to see the goat in the pickup. They must not have a huge employee turnover because since that time, either the manager or another employee has always asked us about our goat. We decided to outdo ourselves this time so we parked up the road a ways, unloaded the boys and their wagon, tied Tigerlily to the back so she wouldn't be lonely in the trailer, and drove the team through the drive-thru!  

Phil piled in with me for this short little stretch so we could both roll up to the window in the wagon. Then he jumped out so he could get pictures. He wasn't the only one getting pictures, I can tell ya! The boys kept staring (and startling a bit) at the big picture window just ahead of the drive-thru and at first I thought they were afraid of their reflections. But no, it was the crowd of customers who were pressing themselves against the glass to get a peek at our rolling freak show! 

"Is one of those for me?" Sputnik asks. 
"Yes, there is one for you! And one for Finn and one for Tigerlily!" Each goat got a waffle cone, but since Tigerlily didn't want hers the boys got an extra half a cone each. 

Phil drove the team back through the parking lot, but the next time we go to a drive-thru he gets the glory of driving up to the window. 
Now that is my kind of caper.

I just put full pack rigging on Shelby GT, Bacchus, Woodstock, and just a collar on Vincent VanGoat and took them all out on a walk. While traveling through the new neighborhood of fancy-shmancy houses on the way to the canal road, I have to keep them on leads. I actually managed to get the 3 big goats to be manageable and Vincent dragging behind. I thought to myself that they kinda seemed like they'd work for team driving. They're not a nicely matched set like Nano's crew, but once they are on the road they stop trying to kill each other. Bacchus has one of those Sopris halters and he really responds to it. Where it goes, there also goes his head just like a horse in a bit.

By the way I have to compliment you on your shirt! Remember that Napal * USA project shirt I made a while back? As a thanks for designing it they had a custom embroidered version made in Nepal and sent it to me. It looks like they did a bit of work to make it work with string instead of ink, and its really very cool! Thats one for the wall. No way I'm ever going to wash that. It'd probably wrinkle/shrink into a mess!
HA! I got one of those embroidered shirts too (I had to buy mine though), and it didn't wrinkle and shrink into a mess. It actually went through the wash just fine. Unfortunately, however, the colors in the embroidery threads aren't very stable. I chose a white shirt so I could wear it to show goats. It was pale pink when it came out of the wash. I hate pink unless it is part of a tie-dye swirl. So that's what I'm going to do--tie-dye the shirt. I'll buy a normal one off Amazon to wear at goat shows.
My Caique parrot, Crayola has been a little stir crazy lately so I bought him a cheap parrot toy at Walmart. Yesterday I walked in the room and looked-- He had dragged it over to his water bowl and had been dipping the colored rope into the water and chewing it. The stain washed out of the rope and turned the water almost black. Half of his orange face was stained dark, dark green. I grabbed him and stuck his head under the sink and washed at the stain and now it is light green. The toy dropped onto the drop-cloth I put under the parrot cages and now there's a rainbow stain on the cloth. WHY do they make bird toys always have that stupid water color stain on the wood and rope???!!! Why do the Napalese use the same stain on their embroidery thread? I blame global trade.

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