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Alchemy Acres
Tip of the Month

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The last two months, we've been discussing the training of a harness goat so that he will pull a cart for you. The information was taken from an article written by Dianne Arnot for the Homesteader's Connection, and we gratefully acknowledge the permission of Trish McKee to reprint the data. The first "Tip" covered the selection of the animal and the training of the kid to the age of about 10-12 weeks. The second installment covered selection of the equipment, including the harness, the driving harness, the halter and reins, and the cart. The use of this equipment in training the harness wether was also described. In this final installment, we cover getting the goat to pull the cart, with the driver in it. If you missed either of our first two articles, just select the "Archive" button, above, and follow the link to the pertinent reference. So now its on to the final "leg" of the training.

Now we must train the goat to pull something behind him. The safest way is to make a travois, which can be easily built with two straight saplings or light poles and at least two support boards, spaced a couple feet apart at one end. As before, introduce your goat to the travois by letting him smell it and letting him satisfy his curiosity about this new thing in the yard. When you are ready to hitch him up, you should stay at the goat's head to quiet him, and have a friend pull the travois to the goat. Rub the shafts along the goats sides, so he is aware of them on both sides. Now attach the traces and shaft loops to the travois just as you would the cart. Lead the goat, hitched to the travois for the first week or until he is comfortable with it and shows no fear of it. Always remember to reward your goat with praise and play time, as this is the most important step in training.

The next step requires the goat to be fully "dressed" in its harness, bridle, and reins. Hitch up the travois as before, only now you will be behind it instead of at your goats head. Have your helper (someone the goat knows) stand at his head or nearby in case the goat needs a little encouragement to move. Now give the goat the command to move forward. Have your friend pull slightly on the rein or collar only if necessary to get the goat started. Once the goat is easily moving forward on command, begin using the different commands that you taught your goat to follow. Practice with your goat on turns and figure eights, so he learns to lean in to the shaft and to cross his front legs. After working with your goat for several days, he should walk along with you easily.

It is now time to hook him to a cart. Remember not to take a second step in training your goat until he is comfortable with the first step. Again, introduce your goat to the cart. A good time would be during your play time at the end of a training session. He knows that the work is done and nothing other than fun is required of him. Let the goat sniff the cart as usual, and once he is used to it, show the goat that it moves. Lift the shafts up and down and roll the cart slowly back and forth. Do this for a couple of days until the goats curiosity is satisfied. When the cart is introduced in this manner, he will think of the cart as just another toy, and he will not fear it.Now hitch your goat to the cart. Be sure to have your helper do as before and bring the cart up to the goat while you hold its head. The goat should be comfortable with the cart and show no fear before you try to drive him. Let the goat just stand while hitched to the cart. If he is comfortable, he should walk to you freely if offered his favorite treat. Now you can take up the reins and drive the goat as you walk behind the cart. Don't get in it yet. Practice driving the empty cart until the goat pulls it smoothly. gradually begin to add weight to the cart, perhaps by leaning on it. Put weights in the cart before hitching it up (so if you drop the weight, the goat is not freightened).When the goat is used to pulling light weights, start taking the weights in and out of the cart so the goat gets used to the pull of the shafts as the weight changes in the cart. Gradually increase the weights while practicing and continue moving them in and out.

After a few days or a week, your goat should be following all your commands, moving forward, left, right, backing up, and doing figure eights. Take the weights out of the cart slowly and carefully get in the cart yourself. Let your goat get used to the weight of you in the cart. Give the command to move forward. Your goat shouldn't hesitate if you have practiced well. Drive him or her in all the familiar places you have practiced, and gradually add new places that are safe for you to travel in. Now you are ready to enjoy all your hard work and have fun driving your goat.

This concludes our discussion of training a harness goat. We hope you will have loads of fun in the process, and even more after you and your animals are pros.

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Welcome PageDescription of Dairy HerdWhat's New at the Site?Crafts and Nifty StuffAlchemy's MenagerieTip of the MonthPrevious Tips of the MonthOther Resources of Interest