Breaking in the Riding Camel

When training camels to ride there are three stages
  1. Handling
  2. Weight Bearing
  3. Breaking the Lead

1.) Handling

  • Begin operations by using a boma, a corral, a fenced field or at least in a dry river bed.
  • First allow the camel to smell you, to become accustomed to recognise you by smell. Let it come to you to smell you. Camels are curious by nature. Use this trait.
  • Keep your animal away from the proximity of others as you train it. These animals by nature are gregarious and like to follow each other around. Any animals present at the time will distract your trainee.
  • Keep talking to the animal, let it familiarise itself with your voice. Never raise your voice in anger.
  • Stroke its flanks and shoulders slowly to enable the camel to get used to your touch, and so generate confidence in your presence.
  • Gently place a rope around its neck. Do not use haste or sudden motions, nor throw the rope. Threatening or fast gestures will cause fright.
  • Tie a lock knot in the rope so that you have a noose which will not slip, and also provide a form of restraint over the animal. This creates a basic halter for purposes of control.
  • Put pressure on the rope, and let the camel feel that you are joined together. Keep talking, and be firm. Let the rope be a little slack, so that the animal can feel some freedom. If the rope is too tight it causes panic. Do not try to pull it tight. If it attempts to run off, walk in a circle around the animal. This causes it to feel less threatened. and so you reduce anxiety. Give a little slack, and take it in, keep up the process, but keep talking throughout.
  • Whenever the camel gets frightened calm it by talking, and be patient, do not be in too much of a hurry.
  • Now you begin with commands, in any language, but you must be consistent in word, in tone, continuing to use the rope lead as you ease and tighten, creating confidence, as well as familiarity with you. The animal must understand that you are joined to it, and in command. Cause it to understand that it can only proceed anywhere with you. Walking the animal around with the lead will tire it, and cause it to be more co-operative.
  • Next is to cause the trainees to couch on order. Sitting or couching for a camel is a natural function hence an easy exercise to teach. Talk to it, give the order, and pull the neck down by the lead. Tap the ground in front of the feet. If it refuses, gently tap its feet. When you see it beginning to sit down or couch you ease up on the rope so that it becomes a natural reflex action on the part of the animal. Remember all camels need room to sit as the action is complicated albeit natural.
  • Step or kneel on its forearm to prevent it from getting up while in the sitting position, Pat its neck, stroke its shoulder, rub its ears. Let it feel your close proximity, and be comfortable with your presence.

2.) Weight Bearing

  • Once the sitting is under control it is ready for the saddle. While sitting bring the saddle to the camel and let it smell. A good idea is to keep the saddle and blanket in the camels boma when it is there so it becomes familiar with the object. Even the smell of camel dung and urine around the saddle familiarises the equipment. While it is smelling the saddle, lean on its back and let it feel the weight of your body, which it is already familiar to the animal. Talk throughout. Pick up the blanket in a quiet movement and place it in on the camels back. Keep talking. Next place the saddle on its hump. With the saddle in position, tighten the girth. Once in place, walk the animal, and keep talking. Slowly develop long walks with the saddle in place.
  • Continually have the camel stand and couch with the saddle on, familiarising it with the feel of the equipment on its back, and to obey commands.
  • Do not forget that camels can kick in any direction of the compass, so there is no safe area. Never lose your temper, even if it kicks you. It is important to establish trust. Be consistent. Be calm. Create confidence and trust.
  • Once you feel that the camel is used to the saddle, accustom it to weight. Start with small bags of sand, placing them on the saddle. Be sure they are very secure. You do not want to frighten the animal if the bags fall off suddenly.
  • Slowly increase the weights until your own body weight is achieved. With the animal loaded in this way walk it for short periods daily.
  • Once the camel has become accustomed to this, you arrive at the key activity. Begin to mount on its back while it is sitting. Move around on its back so it can feel the movement, a contrast to the former immovable weight. At the same time it is necessary to have someone holding the lead rope, so that the animal does not try to rise up quickly in fear, and possibly run off. This activity continues for several days. Remember also that the camel has to get used to the changed centre of gravity, which a rider presents from its back, and also the changes in balance which a rider creates when moving about while controlling the animal.

3.) Breaking the Lead

  • Having accustomed the animal to a rider on its back, now it is led around with a handler and rider. At all the time the rider talks to the camel in a gentle voice.
  • It is important that the camel is taught by voice, and not by beating. The latter behaviour is a bad habit among certain ethnic groups.
  • Finally assuming that all the training has been done correctly, from here onwards it is a progression with increased activity, and growing familiarity with commands to building Up from the walk to various speeds. Information on race training is part of another section.

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