Valley News -

By Joe Naiman
Writer 

Smokey the llama wins performance, driving grand champion awards at San Diego County Fair

 

Last updated 7/4/2019 at 9:34pm

Courtesy photo

Barbie Carlson poses for a photo with her award winning llama, Smokey.

Smokey, a Hemet llama owned by Barbie Carlson, was the grand champion in two activities at the San Diego County Fair's livestock breed show.

Both the performance grand champion and the driving champion awards were earned by Smokey.

"He's a good little guy," Carlson said.

Smokey is now 16 1/2. Carlson has had him since 2006.

"My kids showed her for a long time, and then my kids all grew up and moved on and Smokey stayed with me," she said.

Carlson was raised on a dairy farm in San Jacinto and graduated from San Jacinto High School in 1984. She moved to Hemet in 1987, and her property now includes a ranch of rescue animals. Smokey was purchased although her other animals, including a mustang and birds as well as llamas and alpacas, were either adopted or born on the ranch.

Only a member of a San Diego County 4-H Club, Future Farmers of America, or Grange chapter can enter animals in the market livestock show the final week of the fair, but the livestock breed show earlier during the fair has no geographic restrictions. Although she had participated in the San Diego County Fair livestock breed show with her family, she didn't enter herself until 2017 when she showed Lincoln, a male alpaca born in January 2014 and adopted by Carlson when he was seven months old. Carlson also uses the animal wool for needlecraft projects and entered six garments in the 2017 San Diego County Fair's needle art, sewing, weaving and felting contests. Five of her 2017 needlecraft entries received ribbons including three which won first-place ribbons, and two of those were selected for Best of Division recognition.

Smokey won advanced division ribbons but no championships in the 2018 livestock breed show. The novice class consisted of 26 llamas and one alpaca, and Lincoln beat out the llamas to win the grand champion award after placing first in public relations, second in obstacle and seventh in pack. Last year's home and hobby exhibit included six of Carlson's garments which won ribbons, and two of those won first place and then were selected for the Best of Division award.

This year Carlson did not enter the home and hobby competition. She also did not enter Lincoln in the livestock breed show so that Lincoln and Smokey would not be competing against each other.

"I wanted to concentrate on the one," Carlson said.

An Alpaca and Llama Show Association show championship at the novice performance level moves an animal to the advanced performance division for subsequent shows, and sufficient success in the advanced competition places an ALSA entry in the masters performance portion of future shows. The performance win at the San Diego County Fair fulfilled the requirements for Smokey to advance to masters competition.

"That was kind of exciting. It was one of those wins we were really hoping for," Carlson said.

Smokey will make his masters performance debut Aug. 24-25, at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster and will be at that level for next year's San Diego County Fair.

The San Diego County Fair performance grand championship was the second of the year for Smokey, who also obtained that distinction at the Feb. 16-17 competition associated with the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival in Indio.

"He's accumulating a really good score toward the end-of-the-year awards as well," Carlson said.

Points are used for the California Llama Association's end-of-the-year awards. Smokey was also the driving grand champion at the Riverside County Fair.

The performance competition, which took place June 1, had three components: the obstacle course, the public relations course mimicking activities which would likely occur if a llama or alpaca is brought to a public event, on a visit to a school or other facility or to the filming of a television segment and the pack course. Smokey placed first in public relations, fourth for the obstacle course and sixth in the pack competition.

"The key thing I learned is that when one class goes bad not to let it be discouraging," Carlson said. "If you mess up on one course, it doesn't mean you need to throw in the towel. You can overcome those situations."

The driving competition took place June 2; the two components were the obstacle course and pleasure driving. Carlson and Smokey placed first in both.

"It's wonderful to see him do a little better every time he goes into the ring doing the obstacles," Carlson said. "I think both the animal and I really like the obstacle. They throw some really weird stuff at us."

Not all of the obstacle course activity involved avoiding obstacles, which in some cases meant weaving in and out between poles. The course included retrieving an envelope from a mailbox. Carlson and Smokey also had to back into a designated area.

"Backing up into a parking spot would be what it would be like," Carlson said.

Carlson said that in the driving competition the analogy would be backing a trailer into a parking space.

"Every show he does better," Carlson said of the obstacle course.

The pleasure driving was also an area of improvement.

"Usually that's where we don't do as well because pleasure driving is all about changing your gait," Carlson said. "We just got a good solid run this year."

Carlson said that she has become softer on the reins.

"I'm getting better. I'm learning to work with the animal better as well," she said.

The 2018 Alpaca and Llama Show Association's Grand National Show of Champions took place Oct. 26-28, in Kansas. Smokey was the driving grand champion and also took first place in cart driving, pleasure driving and pack while placing second in public relations. Carlson also entered the advanced knitted or crocheted fleece competition at the ALSA Grand National Show and received both the grand champion and reserve champion awards for her garments.

"It was a good show," Carlson said.

Lincoln's son, who is now a year old, competed in the novice division at this year's San Diego County Fair. Abraham is a huarizo; his father is an alpaca and his mother is a llama. The San Diego County Fair was Abraham's third show and his first at Del Mar. He was not among the top five in any category.

"He's very young," Carlson said.

Carlson said that her objective with Abraham at Del Mar was to provide him with show experience.

"My goal is to have one award for every class," Carlson said.

That can now be accomplished with Smokey competing at the masters level, Lincoln being shown in the advanced division, and Abraham having novice status.

 

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