PLTA PACK TRIAL HANDBOOK
General Procedures, Regulations & Guidelines
for PLTA Sanctioned Pack Trials
In effect April 14, 2018
Versions are updated when significant changes to policy and corresponding handbook content have been made. The version number consists of Year, Month, Day and a digit that indicates minor revision for typographical and grammatical edits.
This document is updated from the 2017 version of the PLTA Pack Trial Handbook
Table of Contents
Staffed by dedicated volunteers, the Pack Trail Llama Association, Inc. hereafter referred to as the “PLTA” is a not-for-profit charitable and educational organization. The mission of the PLTA is to preserve and promote working llamas, through education of the public and members of the association as to breeding, raising, training, care, and safe and humane uses of working llamas as companions.
The PLTA was created in 1998 as a successor to the Western Idaho Llama Association (WILA) Pack Performance Llama Trials that were first held in 1995. This was the beginning of the concept of testing pack llamas against a written packing standard. The PLTA continues to test and recognize pack llama accomplishments. A full discussion of the history of the PLTA can be found at www.packllama.org on the About page.
The PLTA’s prime objective in promoting this concept is to discover and recognize llamas that can fulfill the llama packer’s needs on the trail by performing in a manner consistent with the demands of actual packing conditions. The intent is not to confront the llama with unrealistic or trick problems, rather, it is to test the llama’s ability and acquired level of training and conditioning. PLTA tests use natural and man-made obstacles in a manner found in normal packing situations. While realistic packing conditions are subject to variations in different parts of the country, PLTA certified pack llamas are expected to possess a defined set of abilities that enable them to serve as valuable packing companions.
The PLTA recognizes the variability in how pack llamas are used. Not all pack llama owners use their animals on cross-country treks into the backcountry for weeks at a time, nor do they extensively use them to carry heavy loads, or to only traverse mountainous regions. A sizeable number of PLTA members use their pack llama to carry light loads on day trips or lunch outings, and often on relatively flat ground and across gentle terrain. PLTA pack trials are designed to be applicable to a wide variety of landscapes and corresponding packing demands.
PLTA Pack Trials are a measure of skill and fitness already attained. They are a test of the llama’s current physical fitness, mental ability and skill. They are not an opportunity for training. The levels of certification available have been designed to recognize this. Gradations of fitness and skill required to successfully gain certification span four levels, Basic, Advanced, Master and Elite. Further recognizing that some owners work their llamas is groups or “strings”, certification of this skill is available at each of the four levels.
Board of Directors
While the PLTA Board of Directors strives to consider and support the desires of the organization membership, all responsibility for determining and maintaining pack trial standards and participation ultimately rests with the Board.
Event planners are advised that all service marks, trademarks, and copyright of the Pack Llama Trail Association, Inc., shall be respected and correctly used. Without hearing, any person, club or association who fails to abide by any of the requirements set forth herein may be suspended from all privileges of the PLTA by the Board of Directors. The Board may also, without hearing, refuse to allow entry of any person or llama in such events for any failure of a llama’s owner or handler to abide by the requirements established by the PLTA Board of Directors.
Pack Trial Governance Committee
To assist the Board of Directors a committee composed of knowledgeable and experienced PLTA members sit on the Pack Trial Governance Committee. These individuals review pack trial issues and make recommendations to the Board about how to best manage the trials. See Appendix 3.
While the PLTA has established criteria for testing pack llamas with supportive authorization, information management and standardized testing structure, the Association does not conduct the trials or other sanctioned events. This responsibility falls to the Event Host who applies to the PLTA to sanction their event. The Event Host bears full responsibility for organizing the event and carrying out its activities in a safe and efficient manner.
In the past, the word 'trial' was used for many different portions of the PLTA pack llama evaluations. A broadening of the scope of PLTA programs as well as information management developments require such words to be used with greater discrimination, hence the definitions that follow.
A PLTA "Event" is the entirety of a PLTA sanctioned gathering. It may include Pack Trials, Packers’ Challenges, Packers Primers, workshops, seminars and more. It may last a single day or many. Events must be sanctioned with the PLTA Secretary. Fees are based on the number and type of activities planned.
An “Activity” is a particular type of PLTA pursuit. Activities include challenges, trials, trainings and workshops.
A "Trial" is a single iteration of evaluating the llama against a written standard. Pack Trials consist of Manageability Tasks and Field Tests. A number of trials must be completed to achieve certification at a particular level. A trial consists of Manageability Tasks and the Field Test.
Manageability Tasks are those activities a llama is expected to participate in while preparing to begin hiking. These include such things as haltering, loading and unloading in a vehicle, saddling and so forth.
Field Tests involve demonstration the llama’s fitness level and ability to negotiate obstacles in a realistic packing environment. This involves two components, hiking a course over a route measured for distance and elevation gain, and negotiating pre-identified obstacles typical of what a llama and handler may expect to encounter during a pack trip.
The pack trial course is the route taken during the field test. Courses are usually established, mapped and marked by the trial marshal. At all levels above Basic, they must be approved by a pack trial certifier. Each course must fall within the PLTA distance and elevation gain parameters for a given level.
Pack trial obstacles are pre-selected impediments or obstructions found along the course that represent typical naturally occurring difficulties encountered during hiking or packing. These obstacles must meet PLTA standards and requirements, and be appropriate to the level of pack trial for which they are being used. At all levels above Basic, they must be approved by a pack trail certifier. Generally obstacles are selected and marked prior to the pack trial by the trial marshal. Llamas undertaking a field test must successfully negotiate all obstacles on the course.
Enrollment in the PLTA is available for llamas, guanacos and all persons interested in working with them. Once llamas or guanacos are registered, their enrollment is permanent. Enrollment for people is based on an annual renewal which runs from January 1st through December 31st of each year.
Applying for member or associate status requires filling out the appropriate form and submitting it with payment to the PLTA. This may be done in a number of ways. Payment may be made electronically using PayPal on the payment page of the PLTA website at Payment. Payment may be made through the postal service by sending a check or money order to the PLTA Treasurer. And, although it is discouraged because of the extra work it creates for the Event Host, payment may also be made in person at a PLTA event.
Enrollment requires the use of the PLTA Membership Application form which must be completely and accurately filled out and included with the accompany payment. The form is found on the PLTA website as a pdf file and can be filled out and submitted electronically or in hardcopy. Completed forms should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the PLTA Secretary.
The status of a membership may be confirmed with the PLTA Secretary.
A membership in the PLTA includes two adults (18 years and older) plus children under the age of 18 living at the same residence, regardless of whether or not the children own llamas separately from their parents or siblings. Becoming a member allows you to register your llamas with the PLTA and it is required for your llama to participate in PLTA sanctioned events and programs.Membership dues are paid annually.
Benefits of membership in the PLTA include registration of your llama and tracking of its accomplishments in the PLTA database, participation in all PLTA events and programs, support and mentoring for your event and advertisement of it on the PLTA website, and recognition of your llama(s)’ accomplishments on the PLTA website. It also provides access to the event support and member contacts, and it provides you with the opportunity to have your contact information and ranch or business information displayed publicly on the PLTA website.
Associate status is required for insurance purposes for all non-member handlers of llamas entered in PLTA sanctioned events as well as other non-member participants. This does not include programs in which individuals participate independently of organized events, since those are not insured activities. Associate status may be rolled into a membership within the same calendar year by paying additional monies. Associate status does not include membership benefits. Payment of an Associate fee is required for participation isn each Event.
To participate in most PLTA sanctioned programs and events, including pack trials, a llama must be registered with the PLTA. Registration provides the llama with a unique tracking number that is used to record PLTA related data for that llama in the PLTA database. The number the PLTA assigns to the llama stays with that llama's documentation throughout its life. Use of the PLTA Llama Registration Form or the PLTA Membership Application and Pack Trial Entry form is required. Required registration information includes:
- Full name of the llama
- Date of birth if known
- International Llama Registry number (ILR) if the llama has one
- Owner's PLTA number
- Owner's name and contact information
For llamas that do not have an ILR number, the PLTA also requires two images of the animal. One must be taken showing a left side view and one must show a right side view. These images must be clear and allow the animal to be fully recognizable.
The PLTA llama registration fee is a one-time-only charge for each llama. The registration is transferable at no additional charge if the llama changes owners. This registration fee helps to cover the costs of entering that llama’s information into the database, sending out the notice letters whenever the llama qualifies for a level of Pack Trial achievement, and production of PLTA Certificate of Trial Completion.
In order for a llama to be registered, the llama's owner must be a current member in the PLTA. Registration in any other registry or group is not required. See the Payment page on the PLTA website at www.packllama.org for complete information about making payments.
The PLTA set up pack trials to support the organization’s purpose by facilitating a social, non-competitive atmosphere where the pack llama is tested against a written standard in a realistic packing environment. One of the main objectives for participants is to experience an enjoyable and safe event with their pack llama and other packing enthusiasts. Besides going packing in the real life outdoor environment, there are no other organized realistic packing events for people and their llamas that are not only social, but provide a useful testing grounds for their packers. Pack trials also provide wonderful opportunities for packing enthusiasts to observe and learn from all levels of experienced llama packers.
The llamas enter the trial level for which they are fully trained and conditioned. PLTA sanctioned pack trials are formal tests and should not be considered training exercises. They are not a place to teach a llama to pack. Trials are not competitive events; it is the llama that earns a certification of completion, not the handler. Likewise, during pack trials llamas do not compete against each other, rather they are judged on an individual basis.
Natural packing conditions are expected to vary in different parts of the country, but by using a written standard and running a trial under the supervision of a PLTA Trial Certifier, the PLTA expects the trial to be set up with a constancy and equivalency between trials regardless of their geographic location.
Pack Trials measure three aspects of a llama's ability, attitude, skill and fitness. A llama successfully earning a PLTA certificate has shown that it has acquired appropriate skill in dealing with packing demands, it has an attitude suitable to the venture, and it has shown that it is properly physically conditioned to handle the demands of packing. Skill is measured by the number and types of obstacles the llama must deal with. Attitude is clearly demonstrated by the llama’s willingness to complete the obstacles and the course. Fitness is measured by the llama’s ability to complete a specific distance and elevation gain carrying a load within a specified amount of time.
Besides providing and experienced person to provide guidance and support to the Trial Host and Trial Committee, the PLTA also provides helpful written documentation.
The PLTA maintains a website at www.packllama.org that contains all the information included in this document plus much more. It is an excellent source for learning what the PLTA is all about. Descriptions of PLTA Programs, lists of llama registrations and accomplishments, changes to regulations, updates, articles of interest, links, schedules, and contact information are posted here. Certifiers are required to be fully familiar with the website contents. It is strongly recommended that Event Hosts, Trial Committee members and event participants also be familiar with this information. Llama accomplishments are also posted here.
Early in the history of PLTA pack trials, it was recognized that staging an event could a challenging undertaking. To fill this need dedicated members of the association produced ‘The PLTA Pack Trial Manual: How to put on a Pack Trial’ It originated as ‘Mad’s Manual’, a set of pointers on how to run a successful pack trial. Past PLTA President Viv Fulton took this guide and expanded it to an excellent manual that provides detailed and step-by-step instructions for staging a trial that are useful for staging any event. Also known as the 'Yellow Book' from the color of its cover it provides detailed assistance in planning a pack trial. Please note that the manual is out of date in terms of trial requirements.
Events sanctioned by the PLTA may be conducted by individuals, groups, clubs, or associations. Any individual or llama organization is eligible to conduct PLTA activities after their request for sanctioning has been approved. Application must be made using the PLTA Event Sanctioning form and accompanied by appropriate payment. Forms are available at www.packllama.org or from the PLTA Secretary. Fees may be paid via the website by using PayPal or by submission to the PLTA Treasurer. Fees must be submitted at the time of application.
Approval for sanctioned PLTA trails is granted solely by the PLTA Board of Directors. A sanction may be granted for any and all trial levels, or for any combination as long as the requirements for each level can be met by the Trial Host. All sanctions are non-transferable and are valid only for the dates indicated on the approved application unless prior approval has been given by the Board of Directors.
The official application and payment for sanctioned PLTA activities trials must be filed with the PLTA Secretary at least four (4) weeks before the date of the trial. If application is made between four weeks and two (2) weeks prior to the dates of the event, a fine of $25.00 will be assessed to the applicant. After the two week marker prior to the event, no event will be sanctioned unless circumstances of undue hardship are approved by a two-thirds majority of the PLTA Board of Directors. After the one (1) week marker prior to the event, no event will be sanctioned. Payment of the fine will be made directly to the PLTA Treasurer and money will go directly into the PLTA account. This money must be separate from the fees obtained at the event. While this policy may seem harsh, please remember that paperwork and insurance requirements must be met and PLTA administrators are volunteers. It takes time to make sure all necessary pieces are in order for a safe and effective event.
Applicants for hosting a trial are encouraged to conduct the levels that are likely to match the capabilities of llama packers in their area. This should encourage a greater attendance and may encourage new people to become involved. If no trials have been run in the area before, the PLTA suggests that the event be staged over the course of a weekend, with a Packer’s Primer workshop being held the first day and a Basic trial being held the next. There is no additional fee for the Packer’s Primer if it is held in conjunction with a pack trial.
On December 16, 2014 the PLTA Board of Directors approved a protocol for sanctioning pack trials. When determining whether or not to sanction a PLTA pack trial, the PLTA Secretary or the Secretary’s delegate will evaluate by answering the following questions.
- Has a Trial Chairperson been identified?
- Has a Certifier been assigned?
- Have appropriate fees been paid?
- Is the date free from conflict with other llama activities in the area?
- Is the proposed venue appropriate?
- Is the host experienced? If not, is the Certifier available to provide mentoring? If the Certifier is not available for this, who is assigned as mentor to the host?
- Does the host remain in good standing, after any trials they have hosted previously?
After these questions have been positively answered, the trial can be officially sanctioned. At this point the host may supply details to the PLTA website administrator for posting on the web, and may begin advertizing the event. Other than posting information on the Associations’ website, the PLTA is not responsible for advertizing or promoting an event.
Entry in a pack trial shall be initiated through the presentation of an official PLTA Pack Trial Entry Form for each llama/handler team. The form must be completed in full and the information given on the form must be accurate. Each form must be signed by the owner who is responsible for all errors, or by the owner’s agent duly authorized to make the entry.
It is strongly recommended that individuals become members, enroll handlers or other persons planning to attend the event as Associates, and register their llamas prior to the event. Participants should plan to have their member and registration numbers in hand and entry forms filled out when they arrive. With the Event Host’s permission it is possible to join the PLTA and register their llamas with the PLTA at the time of entry in a trial by completing the membership section of the trial entry form and making payment of required fee(s) to the Trial Committee, however, this practice puts extra burden on the Event Host and should be avoided.
If required by the land manager or at the option of the PLTA trial sponsoring entity, a numerical limit may be imposed on entrants in any and all levels offered at a particular event. If the number of entrants is to be limited, the numerical limitation must be stated in the advertizing information for the event.
Non-PLTA participation fees that are generated specifically to support the Event Host’s needs may vary between events. These fees may be required to support the activities offered and expenses incurred by the Trial Committee. The fees set by the PLTA and paid to the PLTA are described in this document. All other fees are determined by, and are the responsibility of, the Event Host. The PLTA has no input or claim on these fees; they are collected and used at the sole discretion of the event organizers.
Payment may be made using PayPal at www.packllama.org on the “Payment” page, or by sending forms monies to the address shown below. Because Board members are volunteers, addresses and officials change often. Check the Payment page for up-to-date information.
Mentors are available to Trial Hosts to help insure that successful trials are set up. This person is typically a very experienced Certifier or member of the Board of Directors who is fully familiar with all aspects of event planning, trial regulations, and PLTA policy. Mentors work closely with the Trial Committee to answer questions and supply guidance.
Working by phone, email, or in person, with a Mentor assigned by the PLTA Board of Directors, a Trial Chairperson may validate a Basic level pack trial without the oversight of a Trial Certifier.
Certifiers are authorized by the PLTA through mentoring and on-the-ground experience. As of March 2017, authorization requirements are under review by the PLTA Board of Directors. Certifiers are expected to have at least the following experience:
- Overnight llama packing experience
- Completion of at least two PLTA sanctioned Master level pack trials
- Apprenticeship under an Approved Trial Certifier at one additional Advanced or Master level trial
- Overnight llama packing experience
- Completion of at least one PLTA sanctioned Master level pack trials
- Attendance at a PLTA Trial Certifier's Workshop
During 2015 the PLTA Board of Directors added the requirement that persons wanting to become certifiers must begin the process by taking a written test. This is a pass/fail open book test on the contents of the current PLTA Pack Trial Handbook. It is administered by an active authorized certifier and it must be passed with a score of 90% correct, however, the applicant is allowed to revise answers until they are correct. The point of the test is to ensure that the applicant is thoroughly familiar with pack trial regulations as presented in the Handbook.
Persons authorized as PLTA certifiers are expected to have a thorough knowledge of pack trial requirements, to be well versed in the history and mission of the PLTA, and to understand PLTA policies as they apply to pack trials and public interface.
The Pack Trial Certifier is deputized by the PLTA Board of Directors to settle any disputes that occur during the trial. The Trial Certifier represents the Pack Llama Trial Association at PLTA Trials and serves as the Board of Director's and the Pack Trial Governance Committee's eyes and ears at each trial event. The Certifier is responsible to see that trial activities are conducted in compliance with PLTA standards, procedures and regulations. As such, the Certifier is given the power of censure over the trial activities and participants, and must take whatever action s/he deems appropriate to ensure that all aspects of the trial activities are conducted appropriately.
If someone does not follow the rules as set forth by the PLTA Board of Directors, the Trial Certifier must take whatever action s/he deems appropriate ranging from verbal censure to disqualification. Failure of the Certifier to ensure compliance can be grounds for the PLTA to revoke the Pack Trial Certifier's approval.
The Trial Certifier is also tasked with ensuring that the Trial Committee is familiar with the PLTA policy for dealing with accidents that may generate possible insurance claims and that should an accident occur, the circumstances and actions taken are fully documented and handled in accordance with PLTA policy.
Inspecting the Course
The Trial Certifier must walk each trial course with the Trial Marshal prior to the start of the trial. During this walk-through, the Certifier will make note of the simulated packing scenario, the objective of each obstacle, and the expected performance of the llamas so that handlers and Stewards can be briefed as to the logic behind the selection of the obstacle and the proper method of negotiating it. The Trial Certifier will also insure that the course has been appropriately designed for the level of the trial and will verify that standards for the following requirements are met:
- Proper length
- Required elevation gain/course distance
- Proper number and types of obstacles
- Reasonable time window.
Modifying the Course
If the terrain prevents the exact physical requirements from being met, or if there are other circumstances that affect the difficulty of the course, the Trial Certifier may approve modification to the course in length, elevation gain, or location. These changes will be made only after all other potential routes have been considered. The Certifier also has the right to lengthen time windows as a means of adjusting to course conditions. Factors that could influence the need to adjust the course may include but are not limited to:
- Extended grades of more than 9%
- Extended sections of extremely rough or rocky terrain
- Extreme weather conditions.
- Dangerous trail traffic
The Trial Certifier is given the responsibility of approving the course design because they are in the best position to evaluate the effects of the demands the course makes on participant llamas. Changes must be made in keeping with the requirements and intent of the established standards for the given pack trial level.
The Trial Certifier is responsible for assessing the safety of obstacles and their appropriateness to the trial level. If string trials are to be run, obstacles must also be evaluated for the safety and appropriateness for strings. If the Trial Certifier finds an obstacle to be unsafe for a string to negotiate, s/he may require the llamas in the string to be separated so that the llamas navigate the obstacle individually. Alternately, the Trial Certifier may require the selection of a completely different obstacle, or selection of an alternate obstacle to be used only by the llamas working in strings.
The Trial Certifier shall determine that all participating llamas are healthy, fit and sound enough to participate in a PLTA pack trial. The Certifier shall not allow any llama to be brought onto the trail grounds if it shows any symptoms of, and/or is known to have been in contact with, any communicable llama disease within the thirty days preceding the first date of the trail.
The Trial Certifier has authority to evaluate and approve or disapprove of the equipment the llama uses during a pack trial. This includes the saddle and pannier system, rigging, load arrangement, and breakaway systems for strings. Decisions are to be made as a matter of safety rather than personal preference.
Before the start of the trials, the Trial Certifier will conduct meetings with participants. These meetings are a critical safety requirement and the Certifier is responsible to see that they are given adequate time and attention to disseminate appropriate safety and administrative information to trial participants. (See Section 3. Event Setup)
Duties during the Trial
The Certifier will actively participate in events during the trial. Duties include:
- Providing assistance to the Trial Committee, Stewards and entrants
- Resolving disputes
After the trial is completed the Trial Certifier will make sure that provisions have been made for all tags and flagging used to mark the course and obstacles to be removed. The Certifier will also make sure that trial paperwork is properly filled out and appropriately signed. This includes:
- Manageability Score sheets
- Field Test Score sheets
- Trial Certification form
- Trial Results form
- Proof of Completion forms
The Certifier is required to sign the latter three forms listed above.
The Certifier shall also provide feedback to the Board of Directors by completing a PLTA Course Critique and a written report that includes descriptions of any difficulties and/or particularly positive occurrences during the trial . This report will be sent to the PLTA Secretary for distribution to the Board of Directors and the Pack Trial Governance Committee. Certifier reports are invaluable tools for improving pack trial safety and administration.
The Certifier will retain a copy of the Certification form and is strongly advised to add a copy of the Trial Results form and score sheets to her or his files for future reference. The Trial Certifier is NOT responsible for submitting paperwork or monies to the PLTA. The Trial Committee is tasked with this job.
In the event of an accident the Trial Certifier is called upon by the Board of Directors to be fully supportive to the Trial Committee. While it is the Trial Committee’s responsibility to contact the PLTA Board, it is incumbent upon the Certifier to be fully observant of events and record them accurately in a signed and dated written report.
The Event Host is the supporting individual, group, organization or other entity who stages the PLTA event. The host is responsible for establishing a Trial Committee or otherwise staffing the roles necessary to successfully support an event and the associated trials. The host is responsible for ensuring that trial results and monies are delivered to the PLTA administration in a timely manner. They are also responsible for safely administering the event and managing accidents as described by PLTA policy.
To spread out the responsibilities of administering pack trials, any Trial Host may choose to establish a Trial Committee consisting of a Chairperson, Secretary, Trial Marshal and Steward(s). The Trial Committee is then tasked with running the pack trials. Whether or not a committee is established, the various administrative roles must be filled. In many cases hosts will elect to have individuals play multiple roles. This is fully acceptable; however, it must be clear that Stewards are not allowed to lead llamas that are participating in a trial that they are Stewarding.
The Trial Chairperson has overall responsibility for the activities involving pack trails. This person must be very familiar with the current PLTA pack trial regulations and have a current PLTA membership. Ultimately the Trial Chairperson is responsible for planning and conducting the trial in compliance with all the general procedures and regulations pertaining to their responsibilities. The Trial Chairperson also serves as the contact person to the PLTA Secretary and Board of Directors. As such, their name, address, and phone number will be provided to the PLTA at the time official application for event sanctioning is made. Should any conduct of an entrant occur during the pack trial event that could or does require disqualification, or should any accident occur during the event, the Trial Chairperson shall submit a complete report to the PLTA.
One of the most important roles is that of the Trial Secretary. This position should be held by a detail-oriented person who can organize information clearly and accurately, will not misplace or confuse information, can write legibly and has sufficient computer skills to manage the necessary documentation.
Typically, prior to an event, the Trial Secretary organizes records of who is participating and fills in forms as much as possible in anticipation of their use during trial activities. After the trial, the Trial Secretary shall review all forms for accuracy, legibility, completeness, and signatures. The Secretary manages the trial monies, and reports trial results to the PLTA Secretary.
The Trial Marshal is tasked with laying out the course for a trial. This person must be intimately familiar with both the criteria and rationale for designing courses to meet PLTA Standards. The Trial Marshal must also be familiar with Leave No Trace concepts and have a solid understanding of safety issues for the area they are working in. This knowledge is expected to be carefully applied when selecting a field test course and obstacles that meet PLTA standards for a particular trial level.
Prior to the event, the Trial Marshal is expected to walk each trial course with the Trial Certifier. During this time the Trial Marshal will explain the logic behind obstacle selection, route, and allowances for elevation gain and distance. The Marshal shall also review with the Certifier, precautions and considerations taken to facilitate and expedient handling of emergency situations.
In the event that the Trial Certifier requests changes to obstacles or the course, the Trial Marshal shall insure that those changes are made and reported to the Trial Chairperson.
The Trial Marshal provides course statistics to the Trial Secretary. Often the Trial Marshal fills out the preliminary information on the Trial Certification Form. The Trial Marshal is not responsible for signing any forms required by the PLTA
The Trial Steward’s role in a pack trial is to evaluate the performance of each llama as the llama undertakes the tasks required in the trial. Trial Stewards fulfill the role of judge or proctor and in order to do so, must be familiar with what is considered acceptable llama behavior. Stewards will watch for issues of unhealthy or unfit llamas, inappropriate equipment or load, unsafe practices, and any abuse of a llama or intentional interference with another entrant that could require disqualification. These matters will be reported to the Trial Chairperson and the Trial Certifier.
During assessment of Manageability Tasks and Field Tests the Steward shall inform handlers of expected procedure and behavior. During the Field Test, the Steward shall inform handlers of the way obstacles are to be negotiated and help handlers stay on the designated course. The Steward observes each llama as it copes with each obstacle to ensure that they are negotiated appropriately and to determine if any performance deductions need to be made. Stewards will deduct performance points for unsafe and potentially dangerous behavior. The Stewards will notify the handler when a performance point is deducted and make note of the circumstances on the Obstacle Score Sheet.
Stewards may not make changes to any obstacle after the Trial Certifier has completed their walk-through except to repair the obstacle to the condition it was when the Trial Certifier had last seen it. If an obstacle is damaged or modified by the entrant’s llamas to the extent that it is no longer similar to that seen by the first entrants, the Steward should immediately call for the assistance of the Trial Certifier and await their instruction before allowing other participating llamas to attempt the obstacle. Notes should be taken of the time when this particular trial is temporarily put on hold and the llamas affected by it so their subsequent completion time may be adjusted.
Stewards are not responsible for settling disputes. In the case of a conflict the Stewards should immediately contact the Trial Chairperson or Trial Certifier for direction. Mediation by the Steward shall be limited to calming the situation so that the trial may continue.
The Steward is expected to be fit enough to hike at a rate that allows the course to be completed in the allotted time window. Stewards do not have to complete the entire course. They may be “swapped out” so that a single individual only oversees a portion of the Field Test.
The Board of Directors recognizes conflict of interest issues and wishes to limit them, but because of the small size of the pack llama community and the limited number of Certifiers and volunteers, adequate staff is seldom available to fill all needs. Of particular concern is whether Stewards and Certifiers should be allowed to lead llamas, their own or others, that are being evaluated during a trial. In the case of Certifiers, since the Certifier is not evaluating the llama, and since prohibiting Certifiers from doing so would unduly penalizes them and limits the benefits they receive from participating in PLTA events, the Board has determined that they shall be allowed to lead them during Field Tests. In the case of Stewards, since they are responsible for evaluating the llama’s performance, the Board has determined that both leading and evaluating puts too great a burden on the Steward. Therefore the Steward, except in emergency circumstances, is not allowed to lead a llama they are evaluating during Field Tests, however a Steward is allowed to evaluate their own llamas that are being led by someone else.
Entry in a pack trial shall be initiated through the presentation of an official PLTA Pack Trial Entry Form for each llama/handler team. The form must be completed in full and the information given on the form must be accurate. Each form must be signed by the owner who is responsible for all errors, or by the owner’s agent duly authorized to make the entry.
Limiting Numbers of Entrants
If required by the land manager, or at the behest of the PLTA trial sponsoring entity, a numerical limit may be imposed on entrants in any and all levels offered at a particular event. If entrants are to be limited, this information must be stated in the advertizing information for the event.
Non-PLTA participation fees may vary between events as a function of the activities offered and expenses incurred by the Trial Committee. The fees set by the PLTA and paid to the PLTA are described in this document. All other fees are determined by and are the responsibility of the Trial Host. The PLTA has no input or claim on these fees; they are collected and used at the sole discretion of the trial organizers.
Fees are set by the PLTA Board of Directors and are periodically reviewed and revised. This is a volunteer organization that operates on a shoe-string budget. These monies are primarily used to support information management. The Board makes every attempt to keep fees at minimal levels. In recent years PLTA administration has been primarily financed through membership fees. This revenue has proven inadequate to fund needs such as insurance, website support, database support, promotional materials and publishing of PLTA documents. In the past, a ten dollar participation fee was levied for all llamas participating in a pack trial. This fee was dropped in January of 2014 in hopes of increasing participation. The Board considered re-instituting this fee, but in recognition of the added paperwork burden it places on Event Hosts, the Board has elected to increase Associate, registration, and certain sanctioning fees instead. As of February 21, 2017 the Associate fee has been raise from five dollars ($5) to ten dollars ($10) and the sanctioning fee for unlimited events has been raised from seventy-five dollars ($75) to one hundred dollars ($100). Effective January 1, 2018 the llama registration fee will increase from ten dollars ($10) to fifteen dollars ($15). The fee schedule as of February 2017 is as follows:
|Fee Type||Payment Frequency||Amount|
|New Member Registering after October 1st||$37.50|
|Associate Role-over to Member||$25.00|
|Challenge (one day event):||Per event||$35.00|
|Unlimited number of Challenges held within the same year||Annual||$50.00|
|Basic Pack Trial Only- Single Trial (one day event||Per Event||$35.00|
|Basic Pack Trial Only - Double Trial (two day event)||Per Event||$40.00|
|All-Level Pack Trial- Single Trial (one day event)||Per Event||$45.00|
|Unlimited number of Events (Trials and/or Challenges) held during the same calendar year||Annual||$100.00|
|Reqest for Certificate:||Per Certificate||$5.00|
PLTA Trials are open to all llamas including male, female and gelding or altered llamas or guanacos. The PLTA does not evaluate camelids other than llamas and guanacos in PLTA sanctioned Pack Trials. All llamas entered in a PLTA sanctioned event participate solely at the risk of their owner, and the PLTA assume no risk or liability whatsoever.
To participate in an event the llama must be registered with the PLTA and at the time of their participation, their owner must also be a member of the organization. The llama must be at least the minimum age and carry the required weight for a given trial level. Age is calculated on the day of the trial. If the llama’s birth date is the day after the trial, the llama is not eligible to participate until that day.
No llama shall be entered or participate in any trial, nor be brought onto the trial grounds, if is shows any symptoms of, and/or is known to have been in contact with, any communicable disease within the thirty (30) days preceding the first date of the trial. No llama that shows obvious signs of being lame or injured or that otherwise is not fit enough to complete the required course shall participate in a trial. The PLTA Trial Certifier will make this determination.
During the trial the llama will be required to maintain a realistic pace as determined by the time window (see Section 3.5 Course Design). If the llama is unable to maintain this pace, they will be dismissed from the Field Test and fail the trail.
Besides mental and physical fitness, it is incumbent upon the llama owner to assure that their animal is appropriately prepared for their trial. Things to consider include:
- Tenderness of the foot pad. Llamas from soft pastures may have difficulty with rocky terrain if their feet are not adequately toughened.
- Length of wool. Long wool can contribute to overheating and can cause difficulties when tangling with obstacle components or trailside vegetation.
- Gender challenges. Breeding males may need to be kept separate from females.
It is strongly recommended that owners consult the Pack Trial Committee so that these types of issues may be resolved well in advance of the trial.
Llamas entered in the trials shall use equipment described herein. The llama must be led with a lead rope and halter throughout the trial; collars may only be used during the picketing Manageability Task and during rest/lunch breaks. The picketing task also requires the use of a stake-out line attached to something fixed or that pivots around a stake in the ground. This line shall be no shorter than sixteen (16) feet and a maximum of thirty (30) feet long.
All llamas are required to carry pack systems with the packs filled out in a realistic manner typical of normal packing conditions. In the case of participation in Basic trials of llamas that are too young to carry weight the panniers shall be filled out with relatively weightless objects such as empty milk jugs. All saddles must have detachable panniers and at least two cinches securing the saddle to the animal. Small training pack panniers may be used only in Basic level trials. The saddle and pack must be secured in a safe manner. This will be determined by the Steward and/or Certifier during the required Manageability Task evaluation of each trial and periodically throughout the Field Test.
Llamas participating in String Trials are required to use a chest strap. All connections or tie-ins between llamas will be done with a quick release knot or breakaway system. The Certifier shall evaluate and have the final say as to whether the method of attachment between the llamas is safe and therefore acceptable. Evaluation will include the length of the lead between the animals and the location and manner of attachment. The Certifier is to evaluate based on safety consideration only and not personal preferences.
The load each llama will be required to carry is determined as a factor of the llama’s body weight at the time of the trial. To accurately establish an appropriate factor, the llama must be weighed within fifteen (15) days prior to, or at the trail. To facilitate this, the Trial Committee must either make arrangements to have an appropriate animal scale available at the trial or must make available to the llama participants the PLTA Pack Trial Entry Form to be filled out by the llama’s owner prior to arrival. The use of llama weight tapes is not allowed. Scales, hand held or otherwise, must be available at the event to determine pannier weights.
In past practice the maximum load of any llama was not to exceed ninety (90) pounds. This limit was established to protect overweight llamas from carrying excessive weight for their stature and ability. However, recent breeding developments are producing large llamas that can appropriately carry a greater load. Therefore the ninety pound limit is no longer appropriate. Rather, considerations for obese llamas must be made on a case by case basis. In general, they should not participate in pack trials. Determinations of whether a llama is adequately fit and can carry the load created by the required weight factor should be reviewed by the Trial Certifier who has the final say.
The total load includes the saddle system and panniers plus the pannier’s contents. These contents are to be supplied by the participant. The panniers must be adequately stuffed to simulate the typical distention of panniers during a normal pack trip. Appropriateness of the pack weight and distention will be evaluated by the Steward during the Manageability Tasks with any disputes being resolved by the Trial Certifier.
Pannier contents used to achieve the appropriate load for the llama can include such items as clay, kitty litter or sand. Rocks may be used, but to ensure comfort of the llama, care should be taken when positioning them in the panniers. Water may be used and works best if the containers are properly sized to be filled to the maximum rather than allowing the water to slosh as the llama walks. Solid barbell weights can even be used but have the disadvantage of coming in set weights, needing to be specifically fastened or positioned within the panniers for the comfort of the llama, and cannot be casually discarded on the trail if the llama experiences problems. The use of hay in lighter loads is discouraged since it can carry noxious weed seed and its use is often prohibited by land use managers. Towels and newspaper are often used to fully distend the packs.
The llama’s owner must be a current member of the PLTA at the time of the trial. The owner is not required to be present at the trial, nor is the owner required to be the llama’s handler during the event. The owner is expected to maintain personal records of the llama’s trial history. Proof of Completion documents will be awarded to the llama at each trial the animal successfully finishes. These will be accepted by the PLTA as verifiable proof should there be confusion about the llama’s accomplishments. Pack Trial Certificates will only be issued upon request. See Section 8.2 for details about acquiring certificates.
The handler of the llama entered in a PLTA pack trial does not have to be the owner of the llama nor a member of the PLTA. However, if they are not a member, for insurance purposes, they must be a PLTA associate. Additionally for insurance purposes, an Acknowledgement of Risk and Waiver of Liability form must be filled out and signed for all handlers. Handlers under eighteen (18) years of age must have their Event Entry form and waiver of liability signed by the legal guardian or parent with custody.
It is not incumbent upon a handler to hike an entire course. If opportunities exist on the course to do so without delaying or otherwise interfering with the trial, handlers may “swap out” so that only a portion of the course distance is covered by each person. Since the llamas are expected to move at a pace that mimics realistic trail conditions and meet time windows established for the Field Test, the handlers must also be capable of maintaining this pace or risk being dismissed from the course and having their llama fail the trial.
Handlers are expected to be able to capably manage their llama and not cause disruption to other llamas, handlers or trial personnel. Failure to do so will incur assessment of performance/safety deductions and /or dismissal from the pack trial grounds. The handler can also be required to leave the Field Test course if there is intentional interference with the progress of any participant enough to cause them to not complete the trail.
Handlers under eighteen (18) years of age must be accompanied by an adult as a chaperone. This chaperone may also be a participant; however, they must hike within the same group as the youth they are chaperoning and be in close enough proximity to assist the youth if needed. The chaperone must be either a PLTA member or associate and must sign an Acknowledgement of Risk and Release of Liability Waiver. Chaperones are expected to meet the same llama handling and hiking skills as a handler.
Depending on the number of llamas entered in the trial and possible course restrictions, people not participating in the pack trail may be allowed to take their llamas on the course if the Trail Certifier and the Trial Committee agree to it, however, these llamas will be evaluated by a Steward only if the Trial Committee chooses to provide the necessary support. No records will be kept regarding the evaluation of these llamas’ performances. The handlers for these llamas must meet the PLTA’s insurance requirements by being either members or associates and must sign an Acknowledgement of Risk and release of Liability Waiver.
At the discretion of the Trial Certifier and the Trial Committee the non-participants may co-mingle with trail participants or be required to travel separately. Non-trial participants must not interfere in any way with the trial entries. To prevent the possibility of obstacles being accidentally modified before all trial participants can be evaluated, all obstacles should be negotiated by the trial participants before the non-participants. It is recommended that the non-participants follow behind the trial participants and negotiate the obstacles separately.
To evaluate the llama, the PLTA has created criteria allowing for individual differences in training techniques but that are still applicable to all entries for assessing acceptable behavior and performance. A PLTA pack trial is not a show ring. Llamas do not compete against each other, nor are their performances graded for perfection. Instead, llamas are expected to accomplish what is asked of them, whether it is a Manageability Task, hiking the course, or negotiating obstacles, in a safe and calm manner while demonstrating a degree of training appropriate to the trial level in which they are entered.
Safe and appropriate behavior is paramount when working with animals, including pack llamas. That packing activities often take place in remote locations only heightens the need for caution. The PLTA emphasizes the importance of safety by deducting points for improper behavior during a pack trial.
Deductions have been designated as marking tools for inappropriate actions by the llama or handler. They are made for each unacceptable or potentially dangerous act that is committed by the llama or its handler. Likewise, courteous and sportsman-like behavior is expected of all handlers, owners and other participants so as to contribute to the goal of achieving a social, non-competitive atmosphere. Deductions can be made for acts that occur anywhere on the course which are observed by the Steward or the Trial Certifier. Acts generating performance deductions may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Lunging through obstacles
- Running into or intentionally bumping or throwing its body against the handler
- Negotiating an obstacle unsafely
- Kicking or spitting at the handler during saddling, pack attachment, foot inspection
- Kicking or spitting at another llama or person while on the course
- Lying down and refusing to get up again
- Refusing to attempt an obstacle
- Trying to pass its handler on the trail or during an obstacle
The Steward will notify the handler whenever a performance point is deducted and mark the deduction on the Obstacle Score Sheet and include a brief explanation of the circumstances. It is advisable for handlers to keep track of deductions as they are made. A llama will not successfully complete a trial if they incur more deductions than are allowed for the trial they are participating in.
The PLTA has created a handout that lists actions that often result in performance deductions during Manageability Tasks, during obstacle negotiation, or on the course. This handout is one of the documents provided to the Trial Committee and is to be provided to the Stewards and handlers prior to the trial. No amount of regulations or descriptions can fully define what is acceptable behavior. This presents a situation that relies on subjective assessment, however, at the core of the evaluation is the concept of safety. Acceptable behavior is synonymous with safe behavior. Further, the steward must determine how many attempts the llama is allowed at an obstacle. Typically this is defined by accumulation of performance/safety deuctions. Once a llama exceeds the allowed deductions for a level, they are disqualified.
Understanding that working with animals and hiking in rough country always carries the potential for accidents, the PLTA Board of Directors requires Trial Hosts to carefully consider all safety issues. Location of event facilities, selection of course routes and obstacles and practices of the Trial Committee must all be undertaken with safety in mind.
During a Pack Trial, the Certifier, Trial Host, and Trial Committee personnel adequate to handle a life threatening emergency, shall remain on site, on the course and/or at the trailhead until all participants have completed and/or cleared their appropriate trial level area.
Safety topics are a critical part of the pre-trial meetings. The Course Certifier should ensure that all points listed below be included in those briefings. The following steps should be followed.
Establishing a Safe Environment
Environments differ with each event but many difficulties may be averted ahead of time by following a few important guidelines. Trial committees should enhance the safe functioning of the event by doing the following.
- Contact local emergency services or law enforcement so they are aware of the event and they may advise you on concerns they might have. Communicate with these officials about safety and the best way to stay in contact.
- Have a veterinarian is on call.
- Post emergency phone numbers.
- Advise participants of environmental dangers that may exist such as extreme weather, water hazards, poisonous plants and dangerous animals.
- Warn participants about trail hazards including such things as crossing a busy roadway, potential slide areas, hunters, dogs, horses, ATVs, bicycles.
- Set up communication check-ins with the Steward on each trial level, whether it is with the use of cell phones, walkie-talkies, or other supplementary form of communication. Make sure every Steward is aware of check-in points.
- Equip each Steward at with a basic medical kit for minor injuries. Make clear where medical kits, either for the group or personal, are located.
- Identify persons on each course who have emergency medical training.
- Identify persons who may have specific medical needs or concerns.
The challenge of an emergency can be significantly reduced if it is planned for. The PLTA Board of Directors expects trial committees to take must take their responsibility is this regard seriously by doing the following.
- Clearly identify assigned roles and chain of command in case of an emergency.
- Locate, prepare, and inform participants of extraction routes, in case of an injury. Post maps of extraction routes in prominent locations and inform staff and participants of where they are.
- Ensure that Stewards and Certifiers carry emergency information including maps of area with emergency routes identified and phone numbers of trial organizers, vets and any other people identified to deal with an emergency.
- Ensure that all participants know that the Trial Host must be informed of the time and circumstances of the accident and the nature and extent of injuries. The Steward or any PLTA official present at the time (such as the course Steward or Trial Certifier) should be informed as quickly as possible.
The pretrial meeting(s) are critical to the safe function and efficient administration of a pack trial. They must be conducted in a location and at a time when all participants can fully focus on the issues at hand. The Pack Trial Committee must ensure that adequate time is allotted to address all issues and that all participants participate in appropriate briefings. The Trial Certifier has primary responsibility for conducting the meetings.
It is advisable to conduct two meetings, one with the Stewards and one with the entrants and Trial Committee. These meetings may be combined into a single session if necessary. Because of the dynamic activity that usually precedes a trial, these meetings should be scheduled for a time in advance when participants are calm and receptive to the information being presented.
The focus of the meeting with the Steward(s) is to brief them regarding their responsibilities during Manageability Tasks and Field Tests and provide clarity regarding the responsibilities other staff and participants. The Stewards must be instructed as to what is appropriate behavior during the trial and what is, or is not, grounds for making performance deductions. The Certifier will review the list provided to the Stewards by the Trial Committee that describes typical behaviors requiring deductions. See Appendix 2: Steward's Guide to Obstacle Objectives and Performance Point Deductions.
The Certifier will also instruct the Stewards as to the object of each type of Field Test obstacle and the expected performance of llamas while they negotiate the obstacle and answer any questions the Stewards may have. Also at this time, the Certifier will identify for the Stewards any obstacle for which strings are to be separated so that the llamas can negotiate them individually in a safe manner. An option or alternative format for the Steward’s meeting is to conduct a Challenge prior to the trials and use it as a training forum for both Stewards and handlers.
Prior to the start of the trials, the Certifier will gather all entrants and, if possible, the Trial Committee for an explanation of how the trials will be conducted and what to expect. Considering that some entrants may not be experienced llama handlers or may not have previously participated in a trial, the Certifier will address the following:
- the packing scenario
- the purpose of each obstacle
- the expected performance of the llama
- the responsibilities of chaperones
- the location of the first aid kit
- medically trained personnel
- planned procedures in case of emergency
- the presence of poisonous plants along the course
- protocol for encounters with horsemen, dogs and other trail users
During a pack trial it is the Certifier’s responsibility to resolve questions and disputes, however, PLTA members who are not satisfied with the resolution the Certifier approves, have the right to appeal their case to the Pack Trial Governance Committee and/or the PLTA Board of Directors. The final decision on all appeals rests with the Board of Directors. If the Certifier is a party involved in a conflict that cannot be satisfactorily resolved at the time, it is strongly recommended that they contact the Board of Directors for a resolution as soon as possible.
The Trial Committee is responsible for acquiring the location(s) where all aspects of the trial are held. There are five basic space areas to consider besides the trial course(s)
- Parking area for participant’s and staff’s trailers and vehicles
- Registration and Check-in area
- Area and facilities to assess trial Manageability Tasks
- Location suitable for pre-trial meetings
- Area near the course trailhead for last minute briefings
- Area for participant camping if event exceeds one day
Ideally all of these areas will be in close proximity. Trials can be held under less than ideal conditions. The trial Mentor or any PLTA Board member may be consulted for suggestions.
Leave No Trace
All trial activities shall be conducted in accordance with Leave No Trace ethics and environmental considerations. Flagging and trail markers added by the Trial Marshal to designate trails may be used, but must be removed at the end of the trial.
The Trial Marshal shall see that, whenever possible, the trials are conducted on existing trails and only leave such trails to accomplish specific obstacles as necessary. Existing trails include those normally used for hiking, backpacking, pack stock, mountain biking, motorcycles, or other off-road vehicles. This is done to discourage the starting of new trails and to promote good packing ethics.
The trial course shall be set up within the prescribed guidelines set forth in this document. The Trial Committee and especially, the Trial Marshal, shall give paramount consideration to the simulation of situations found in a realistic packing environment while allowing for variations in conditions that are peculiar to the terrain in which they are working.
The Trial Marshal shall set up all courses within the prescribed standards of distance, elevation gain, number and type of obstacles, and specified time window for each particular trial level.
A key aspect of PLTA trials is that the llama is to be tested against a realistic packing environment. To that end the course should be set up within the constraints of the criteria, but simulate in as close a manner as possible, both conditions and obstacles found on a real pack trip. The different levels reflect the progressive degrees of difficulty expected by the serious llama packer on an actual llama pack trip including the level of work effort the llama must expend to successfully handle the distance, elevation gain, and load they carry, within the designated time window.
Course Inspection and Certification
The Trial Certifier shall conduct a pre-trial walk-through with the Trial Marshal to confirm that the course meets PLTA requirements. At this time, and at the discretion of the Trial Certifier, adjustments in obstacles, distance, elevation gain and time window may be made. The Trial Certifier will also indicate any obstacles or other areas on the course where llamas working in a string will be separated and required to negotiate the obstacle individually.
Once the Trial Certifier is satisfied that all requirements have been met, the Trial Certification Form will be inspected for accuracy. When the trial is over the Trial Certifier will further inspect the form for completion, add any pertinent comments and sign the form.
Except for Basic String trails, Basic level trials do not necessarily require certification by a Trial Certifier. At this level, Trial Chairperson may choose instead, to work closely with a PLTA assigned Mentor. Working with the Mentor by phone, email, or in person, the Trial Chairperson may validate a Basic level pack trial without the oversight or presence of a Trial Certifier.
Mileage and Elevation Requirements
Requirements for mileage and elevation gain are specified under that trial’s section in this handbook under ‘Certification Levels’. The target requirements of mileage and elevation gain are selected to maintain a sense of continuity with previously sanctioned trials and those of future trials regardless of geographic locations. Deviations from specifications identified in this document must be approved by the Trail Certifier.
For each trial level specific distances must be covered and elevation gain accomplished. Mileage distance can be measured with a pedometer, bike odometer, measuring wheel, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver, or an accurate site or topographical map. Continuing developments in the GPS system and receivers result in considerable variation in readings between different devices. A given device may also deliver different result on different days and under different weather condition. Therefore, when using these devices it is advised that the Trial Marshal fully understand the limitations and proper use of their unit. It is advisable when using a GPS receiver to measure the course more than once and use an average of the results as the official course distance.
The required elevation gain can be measured with gps receiver that has a built in altimeter, an independent altimeter, or detailed (7.5 minute) topographical map. This elevation gain is cumulative over the entire length of the course. For example, if you climbed up a 50 foot hill (+50) and down the other side (0), then climbed a 100 foot hill (+100) and down the other side (0), then re-climbed both hills (+50, +100) on your way back, the total elevation gain would be 300 feet. The table below shows the recommended standards for course design. It should be noted that the percent grade is calculated over the entire distance of the course. It is expected that shorter inclines may be much steeper.
|Miles||Elevation Gain (ft)||Percent Grade (%)|
|Basic||3||250 - 500||0.95 - 2.2|
|Advanced||5||750 - 1000||2.8 - 3.8|
|Master||8||1500 - 2000||3.5 – 4.7|
|Elite||10||2500- 3000||4.7 - 5.7|
Pack Trial standards were originally designed from the perspective of people packing in the Rocky Mountains and similar terrain. Over the years it has become clear that llamas pack in all sorts of environments and in all kinds of terrain.
A pack llama’s fitness must be adequate for the environment in which they pack. To say that all pack llamas must be able to handle the type of conditions presented by rugged mountainous terrain in order to be considered pack llamas is inappropriate, yet requiring PLTA certified llamas to demonstrate a high level of fitness is appropriate. To address this situation, the PLTA Board of Directors has adjusted the distance and elevation requirements so that mileage can be increased to replace elevation gain at a factor of 250 feet per mile, and allowed that this increase may be accumulated in quarter mile increments. For example, the distances may be increased while the elevation is decreased in the following way:
|Basic||3/250, 3.5/125, 4/0|
|Advanced||5/750, 6/500, 7/250, 8/0|
|Master||8/1500, 9/1250, 10/1000, 11/750, 12/500, 13/250, 14/0|
|Elite||10/2500, 11/2250, 12/2000, 13/1750, 14/1500, 15/1250, 16/1000, 17/750, 18/500, 19/250, 20/0|
Conversely, the elevation gain may be increased while the distance is decreased as shown in the following table. Notice that the percent grade can increase dramatically to the point where it presents unreasonable expectations. Decreasing mileage while increasing elevation gain should be carefully evaluated against the recommendations listed above. For sake of comparison, the maximum grade allowed on an interstate highway is 6%. Optimum trail construction standards generally fall between five and ten percent. At ten percent construction standards recommend building steps. This is normally allowed for only very short sections of trail. Use of a Field Test course with a continuous grade of over 10% for a pack trial is strongly discouraged. A convenient calculator for determining percent grade is available at http://www.csgnetwork.com/inclinedeclinegradecalc.html.
(Miles/Elevation Gain/ Percent Grade)
|Master||7/1750/4.7, 6/2000/6.3, 5/2250/8.5/11.8|
|Elite||9/3250/6.8, 8/3500/8.3, 7/4000/10.8, 6/4500/14.2|
The Board of Directors instituted the revised requirements on December 16th, 2014. The ratios shown are for full miles, however, adjustments can be implemented in quarter mile increments, thus the ratios are 250 feet per mile, 188 feet per three-quarters mile, 125 feet per half mile, and 63 feet per quarter mile. In practical application this means that if a Basic trial course is found to have only 100 feet of elevation gain, the missing 150 feet can be compensated for by adding three-quarters of a mile. The total course length then becomes three and three-quarters miles.
In essence nothing has changed in terms of required exertion or fitness. This adjustment simply makes it possible for llamas living in flat or rolling landscapes to demonstrate their competence as clearly as those who pack in rugged mountains. The Board found this to be a fair and reasonable solution to a problem that has excluded many llamas and their owners from participating in PLTA Pack Trials.
A Useful Tool for Calculating Distance/Elevation Gain
Comparing distance and elevation gain is like juggling apples and cantaloupes. It is much easier to just juggle apples. To convert distance and elevation gain to the same kind of units, consider that 1 mile of distance is equal to 250 feet of elevation gain. Therefore the following holds true:
|Trial||Distance Conversion||Elevation Conversion||Total Units|
|Basic||3||3||250 -500||1 – 2||4 - 5|
|Advanced||5||5||750 - 1000||3 – 4||8 - 9|
|Master||8||8||1500 - 2000||6 - 8||14 - 16|
|Elite||10||10||2500 - 3000||10 - 12||20 - 22|
So, if elevation gain for a Master course is 1800 feet, dividing that by 250 yields 7.2 units. Subtract this from the 14 units required for a Master course leaves 6.8 units to be accounted for. Since the ratio of miles to units is one to one, the distance must equal 6.8 miles.
If elevation gain for a Master course is 1215 feet, dividing that by 250 yields 4.9 units. Subtract that from the 14 units required for a Master course and you have 9.1. Therefore the course must be 9.1 miles long.
If the distance of a Master course measures 10.5 miles, it equals 10.5 units. Subtracting this that from the 14 units required for a Master course leaves 3.5 units to be accounted for. Since the ratio of elevation gain to units is one to 250, multiplying 3.5 units by 250 yields a necessary elevation gain of 875 feet.
Miles + (Elevation ÷ 250) = Units of Effort
Determination of Official Measurements
With the approval of the Trial Certifier, the distance and elevation gain established for a course by the Trial Marshal and Trial Committee shall be used as the official statistics for the course.
The time window is the amount of time an appropriately conditioned and trained llama would navigate the course and trail obstacles as designed, at a pace that would be set on a typical pack trip and allowing for rest stops. This window must be established for each trial’s Field Test. A minimum time is set to discourage the trial from becoming a race, while a maximum is set to preclude unwilling or unfit llamas from successfully completing the course.
Throughout the course, a series of “check points” should be established with a designated time allotment for completion of that section assigned to each section of the course. These checkpoints also provide a known location from which the steward and contact the trial chairperson or other designated person to report the group’s location. This is a useful safety measure. If a llama-handler team does not reach the gate within the allotted time it indicates they will likely be unable to finish the course within the time window and they may be required to leave. This allows the rest of the llamas to travel unimpeded by slowpokes and risk their own opportunity to complete the course as required.
Determining the time window and the time allotment for gates is somewhat of an art. The PLTA recognizes that hiking speeds vary, but speeds during a trial should reflect a realistic expectation, keeping in mind the goal of demonstrating the llama’s fitness, while preventing the field test from becoming a race. Setting a time window requires that staff understand the expectations for llamas at a given trial level and how that fits with the requirements of a Field Test set up on local terrain and in expected local weather conditions. Considerations include distance, elevation gain or loss, steepness of the climbs, altitude, rough terrain or difficult water crossings, and weather related factors such as temperature and humidity. This may require experimentation by having llamas practice on the course well before the pack trail to determine what a realistic expectation is. On longer courses adequate time for a lunch break should be built in to the time window or otherwise accommodated.
Obstacle Selection and Complexity
On February 16th, 2016, the PLTA Board of Directors approved changes to the way obstacles are chosen. Rather than require specific obstacles, regulations now allow obstacles to be chosen based on the type of challenge they represent to the llama. Listed below are the seven categories, their definitions, and recommended obstacles that fit the definition. Depending on the location of the trial, there may well be other obstacles that fit a category's definition. Unless specified otherwise, the Trial Marshal, with the Certifier's approval, is permitted to use alternate obstacles while keeping in mind that safety is paramount.
Simple Verses Complex Obstacles
The PLTA pack trials are designed to become increasingly challenging at progressively higher levels. To this end, not only do the required distance and elevation gain increase, the obstacles become more difficult. To aid discussions, these have been defined as either simple, or complex. Determining what constitutes each is somewhat subjective. Maintaining consistence in application of the standards is one of the reasons why intense training is required for certifiers.
A simple obstacle consists of a single component such as stepping over a log, or pushing past a bush. A complex obstacle offers a more complicated version. It may require a longer distance through the obstruction, greater difficulty in negotiating it, or more components. For example, the log may have branches extending outward or have uneven ground in the approach. A brush obstacle may be longer and include denser brush that rises over the llama’s head and has to be forcefully shoved aside.
Even with increased complexity, obstacles must always be selected with safety in mind. Distinctions of growing complexity become particularly challenging to identify between Master and Elite trials. At these levels standards of complexity may overlap with a given obstacle being appropriate for either level.
Comparative Example of Obstacle Complexity
Using and obstacle from Category 3: Up/Down/Across, the following table demonstrates the increasing challenge that can be designed into an obstacle of the same type and category. This example is provided strictly as a comparison, not as a version of any requirement.
Step/jump over an 16” high, 9” diameter log laying across a smooth, level trail surface
Step/jump over an 18” high, 12” diameter log laying across an uneven trail surface
Step/jump over an 18” high, 12” diameter log laying across a slope with slash on the ground.
Step/jump over a16” high, 10” diameter log and 20” high, 14” diameter log laying across a slope with slash on the ground, and brush that must be pushed through
Category 1. Picking One's Way
The llama is required to move carefully through material that obscures and complicates footing
- Deadfall, Slash
- Rock rubble
- Dense deep grass
Category 2. Foot Fears
The llama must walk through a medium into which the feet sink.
- Deep, loose sand, cinder, or gravel
- Soft snow eight to twelve inches deep
Category 3. Up/Down/Across
The llama must negotiate an obstacle that requires extending its stride to climb or stretch. The range of height for an upward or downward step or jump is sixteen to twenty-four inches (16” – 24”). No standard has been set for stepping across an obstacle.
- High step up
- High step down
- Jump / step over high obstacle such as a log
- Jump / step over a low obstacle such as a ditch
Category 4. Tight Places
The llama is required to negotiate a space that allows limited room to maneuver and that impinges on the llama's personal space.
- Duck under
- Back & turn
Category 5. Slippery Slope
The llama is required to negotiate a slope of greater than 45 degrees that has loose footing and which may cause load shift.
- Steep slope up
- Steep slope down
- Steep side-hill with narrow (8 inch) tread
Category 6. Load Management
The llama must tolerate adjustments or handling of tack or llama's body, exclusive of head and halter.
- Top-loading (secure an item to, or remove an item from the top of the saddle)
- Accessing panniers (insert an item into, or remove an item from a pannier)
- Putting on a rain cover
- Adjusting cinches
- Bug spray
- Foot inspection
Category 7. Trail Hazards
The llama must tolerate unexpected trail conditions including trail traffic, structures, debris, livestock, people, pets, or machines
- Dogs, horses, cows, backpacker
- Bicycle, motorbike, ATV, trail runner
- Bridge, gate, puncheon
- Garbage or plastic sheet piled up or flapping
Definitions of Typical Obstacles
Obstacles that must be stepped through carefully such as a fallen stone wall, or one that the handler must evaluate and negotiate the llama through safely such as an obstructive fallen tree or branch that could be repositioned to go over, under or past.
Any bridge or ramp set above or through an area such as over a steam, or through a swampy, muddy, or rocky area.
Thick bushes, dense low tree branches, or thick and tall grass or reeds which will rub against the llama's pack system.
This obstacle mimics the application of applying bug repellent to the llama. Water should be used in this obstacle to prevent possible allergic reactions of llamas to a selected repellant. The handler should be allowed to use either a spray or wipe-on method of application. The body section of the llama to be treated may vary with the trial level.
Debris on the ground, or very low, that the llama and handler must pick their way through, such as downed trees or branches.
Low hanging branches, leaning trees or rock outcroppings, or similar natural obstructions that cause the handler and llama to duck their heads and possibly their bodies in order to pass under.
Much debate has gone on as to whether or not this obstacle should be included in the Manageability Tasks. The decision to include it as a Field Test obstacle reflects the fact that, in practice, the need to inspect a foot often occurs on the trail rather than at the trailhead. The obstacle consists of picking up the llama's foot to inspect for possible injury to the leg, foot or pad. This will be done without the panniers attached to the llama, possibly before the start of the course, during a rest stop, at an obstacle that requires the removal of panniers in order to be safely negotiated, or after the course is completed. The foot to be picked up will be designated prior to the start of the trial by the Trial Committee and/or the Trial Marshal in agreement with the Trial Certifier.
The handler and the llama must open, pass through, and close a gate.
Jump/Step-Over Obstacles 16 to 24 inches high or wide that must be jumped or stepped over such as a rock, log, small ditch, or other low barrier. All jumps should be controlled
An obstacle for which the handler must open a pannier and put something in or take something out (or both). This might also include putting a rain cover on the llama, or a rain slicker on the handler.
Scree or small talus-sized rocks that require the llama to pick its way through and over them.
An obstacle (often a grove of small saplings or young evergreens) that presents passageways that are narrower than the main trail requiring the llama to either brush against the sides or to manipulate their body and panniers through the obstacle.
The llama is required to pass calmly by hikers with or without dogs, people on horseback, trail bikers, or other trail users.
A water obstacle consists of moving through a body of water that can be moving, such as a creek or shallow river, or still such as the area along the edge of a lake or pond. It can also be wet mud, or a swamp. A llama must be in this obstacle for a minimum of ten feet. Water depth must be no deeper than two feet. It is acceptable to artificially add water to a usually adequate water obstacle.
Each PLTA pack trial level requires successful completion of multiple iterations of a trail. This rule was established as part of the original concept of pack trials for PLTA llamas. It is intended to insure that the llama is capable of demonstrating the necessary skill to perform at that level in varying circumstances and on multiple occasions. To provide for this at a pack trial event, organizers should consider using different obstacle for each trial, or running the course and obstacles in opposite directions to provide a varied experience for the llamas.
Originally llamas were required to complete two Basic trials, four Advanced trials or four Master trials. Elite trials had not yet been established. In deference to member’s wishes, and recognizing that llamas that had successfully gained certification at a lower level had demonstrated significant skill, the Board of Directors chose to reduce the requirements for llamas already holding certification. Thus, a llama that is certified at the Basic level will achieve certification at the Advanced level when it has successfully completed three rather than four trials. Likewise, llamas that hold an Advanced certificate are only required to successfully complete three trials to earn Master certification.
In recognition of the high level of training and experience of Elite candidates, they are not required to undertake the Management Test. However, they must have earned their Master certification before attempting an Elite trial, and they must successfully complete two trials.
No llama at any level is allowed to undertake more than one trial on a given day.
In order to qualify as having successfully completed a trial, all obstacles set up on the course for that trial must be satisfactorily completed and the Field Test must be completed within the time window. Any of the following disqualifies the llama from successfully completing the trial.
- Failure to complete one or more obstacles
- Acquiring more than the allowed limit of performance deductions
- Failure to complete the Field Test within the time window
There are four levels of PLTA pack llama certification. Each is available for a llama working individually or in a string of two llamas. Thus a llama could potentially earn eight different certifications. The four levels are Basic, Advanced, Master, and Elite. These are designed to measure increasing packing skill and physical conditioning.
The requirements for each level of certification are designed to provide a consistent progression of difficulty and to accommodate the changes in the way obstacles are selected. Simple obstacles require attention to a single easy item or issue while complex obstacles include dealing with multiple more challenging concerns.
The standards listed in the tables below show the recommended mileage and elevation requirements. In circumstances where these standards cannot be met, distances and elevation gain may be adjusted at the ratio of one mile = 250 feet of elevation gain (see Section 3.5 Course Design) As a result the course for the Field Test portion of a trial may be longer and flatter or steeper and shorter than indicated here.
Basic Pack Trials
The Basic pack trial tests early stages of training and conditioning against minimal packing requirements. The llama's natural ability and trust in their handler are being evaluated. This level is designed to encourage maximum participation by new and aspiring llama packers and pack llamas. Basic trials are designed to reflect this philosophy as well as being a fun and educational event. A llama certified at the Basic level is beginning to learn to pack. It is expected to be willing to hike short distances with a light load. It is expected to be well-behaved and responsive to its handler, as well as being able to negotiate simple obstacles composed of single components. The certified Basic Pack Llama is a competent day hiker on easy trails.
Basic Pack Trial General Requirements
|Age||Minimum age of 24 months, 24 to 30 months carries no load|
|Load (percent of body weight)||0 - 10% of body weight|
|Elevation Gain||250 to 500 feet|
|Total Number of Obstacles Required||Five|
|Performance Deductions Allowed||Five|
|Successful Trials Required for Certificate||Two, including one carrying weight|
Advanced Pack Trial
Advanced trials are designed to test a llama's ability to deal with a moderately demanding packing environment. The requirements are more stringent than at the Basic level. They are based on the expectation that the llama will be moderately fit and be able to negotiate more complex obstacles than at the Basic level. This is reflected in the longer distance, greater elevation gain and more numerous and more difficult obstacles that make up the standard the llama is tested against. A llama certified at the Advanced level is still learning to pack. This llama has attained a mental and physical skill adequate to pack moderate distances, and negotiate obstacles that are more demanding than a Basic llama would face, but are still composed of a single component. A certified Advanced Pack Llama is a competent overnight packer on gentle journeys. Requirements for an Advanced pack trial are shown in the table below.
Advanced Pack Trial General Requirements
|Age||At least 3 years old|
|Load (percent of body weight)||15% of body weight|
|Elevation Gain||750 to 1000 feet|
|Total Number of Obstacles Required||Ten|
|Performance Deductions Allowed||Three|
|Successful Trials Required for Certificate||Four, or three if the llama has a Basic Certificate|
Master Pack Trial
The Master trial tests a pack llama against stringent standards that reflect the demands placed on an experienced packer. Training and conditioning a llama to this level is a serious responsibility. The requirements are designed to demonstrate the candidate’s superior capabilities. A certified Master Pack Llama is a fully proficient trail packer who is capable of dealing with complicated off-trail situations of short duration. Master packers cooperate closely with their handlers to competently negotiate complex obstacles composed of multiple components. These are the hardy “bring it on” trail packers. Standards for the Master pack trail are shown in the table below.
Master Pack Trial General Requirements
|Age||At least 4 years old|
|Load (percent of body weight)||25% of body weight|
|Elevation Gain||1500 to 2000 feet|
|Total Number of Obstacles Required||Fifteen|
|Performance Deductions Allowed||Two|
|Successful Trials Required for Certificate||Four, or three if the llama has an Advanced Certificate|
Elite Pack Trial
The Elite trial tests a llama's packing performance at a stage of training and conditioning that ensures a llama is fit for long distance travel in extreme terrain. This llama has earned a special place in the llama community and is dominant in the field of packing. This trial is a level above Master and in order to participate, a llama must already have earned a Master Pack Llama certificate. The most significant difference between the Master and Elite levels is the higher degree of fitness, both mental and physical, the Elite llama demonstrates. The certified Elite Pack Llama works in partnership with its handler to adjust to very complex or unfamiliar obstacles and think through how to negotiate them without detailed cues, while remaining responsive to the handler’s communications. The Elite packer is mentally and physically fit for work in extreme terrain under demanding conditions. These llamas are the “go anywhere, do anything” superstars of the llama packing world. Certification as an Elite Pack Llama (EPL) is the PLTA's highest level of recognition of pack llama achievement.
Elite Pack Trial General Requirements
|Age||At least 4 years old|
|Load (percent of body weight)||25% of body weight|
|Elevation Gain||2500 to 3000 feet|
|Total Number of Obstacles Required||Twenty|
|Performance Deductions Allowed||Two|
|Successful Trials Required for Certificate||Two, Llama must already have a Master Certificate|
String Pack Trials
All PLTA String Pack Trials require a PLTA Certifier to be present at the time of the trial. These Trials test the packing scenario of a single handler leading multiple pack llamas in single file on the trail with each animal connected to the one in front of it. Llamas participating in this test are expected to have been trained and experienced in the activity. Trials consist of the same courses as for individual llamas with the corresponding weight requirements, obstacles and time windows. In a String Trial the llamas are required to work in teams of two and, with the exception of obstacles that require pannier removal, remain in the string while negotiating obstacles, although the Trial Certifier may determine possible areas, e.g. steep rocky ground, where the llamas may be separated for safety reasons. This determination is made prior to the trial.
Performance deductions can be accrued by the handler or by either llama and are combined for a team total. The allowed performance deductions are the same as for an individual trial. In other words, if the total deductions for the team exceed the deductions allowed for the trial, the entire team is disqualified.
Two successful completions of the same level of String Trial are required for certification at that level. Llamas are not required to complete their string trials while working in the same team. Thus, if llama A and llama B successfully complete a String Trial as a team, and llama B and llama C successfully complete a String Trial at the same level, llama B will have successfully earned String Certification. Llamas A and C will have both earned one of the two completions required for certification.
Manageability Tasks are an elemental requirement for a pack llama. These tasks are typically encountered at the camp or trailhead rather than on the trail, therefore, examination of the llama’s ability to complete them is done separately from the Field Test. Equipment required for the tasks include a trailer for the llama to load into, and possibly a pen in which to do the haltering task, although the confines of a trailer may be used for this. This equipment is to be provided by the Trial Committee.
Five (5) tasks are evaluated for llamas participating individually. These are:
- Loading and Unloading
- Pack Attachment
Because a llama is required to have earned individual certification at any given level prior to undertaking string certification, only three (3) tasks are required for llamas participating in strings. These are:
- Pack Attachment
At most trials the Manageability Tasks are evaluated prior to undertaking the Field Test, although this is not required. These evaluations may be conducted at the staging area or even in camp the night before the trial. Manageability Tasks will be evaluated by a Steward or a Trial Certifier. It must be remembered that the standards for success are different from what is expected in a show arena. What is being evaluated is the behavior expected in a realistic packing environment. During Manageability Tasks the llama is expected to remain calm, behave in a safe manner, and be cooperative. They are not expected to behave in a precise or stylized manner.
Llamas surpassing the limit of allowable performance deductions for their trial level during Manageability Tasks are disqualified and need not complete the course and obstacles for the trial.
The halter is removed from the llama while confined in a small pen or trailer. The animal is allowed to be completely free within the confines of the enclosure; often the handler is asked to away from the llama and move to the opposite end of the enclosure so the llama recognizes it is loose. After a short time, or when it is obvious that the llama realizes it is free, the handler is asked to put the halter back on. The interaction between the llama and handler is evaluated for calmness. During halter removal and re-haltering, the llama is expected to remain calm, allow approach without becoming anxious and accept the halter without becoming unruly.
The llama is tied by a line to something fixed or that pivots around a stake in the ground for a minimum of five minutes. The line shall be between sixteen (16) and thirty (30) feet long. The llama must remain calm even if they become entangled in the line. If the llama becomes 'hog-tied' where the rope encircles the llama's feet so it can't move, or becomes tangled and panics, performance/safety deductions are made. If the event is held at a location where llamas participating in trials have been staked out for long periods with no problems occurring, the picketing Manageability Task requirement can be waived.
The llama shall be loaded and unloaded from a trailer or vehicle. While loading and unloading the llama should willingly enter and exit the trailer or vehicle. Performance/safety deductions are made if it balks or refuses, or leaps out of or into the trailer in an unsafe manner.
The llama must be saddled properly. The llama should stand calmly while the handler attaches all parts of the saddle system except for the panniers or packs. The handler may have assistance with this task.
The panniers must be attached to the saddled llama properly while the llama stands calmly. The handler may have assistance with this task.
In String Trials, tie-in is the act of connecting the lead and trailing llamas to each other in a string formation. The initial position of each llama is at the discretion of the handler. A chest strap must be worn by the lead llama. All connections or tie-ins between llamas must be done with a quick release knot or breakaway system. The Certifier has the final say as to whether or not the method of attachment is safe and acceptable. Tie-in is required for String Trials only.
The Field Test represents the core of a packing experience. The tasks involved, negotiating obstacles and completing a course, test the llama’s performance in a natural packing environment. The llama is required to demonstrate both its fitness level and its packing skill.
Field Tests can be run in either of two ways; with a roving Steward or with a stationary Steward. Roving Stewards are most frequently used and are strongly recommended. In this scenario the Steward leads a small group of llamas and their handlers over the course. When the group reaches an obstacle, the llamas are led one at a time through the obstacle while the Steward evaluates and scores them. When all the llamas have finished, the group moves on as a unit. A group of five or so llamas and their handlers is optimum for this method. Stewards can be switched out so that it is not incumbent on a single Steward to hike the entire course.
The other alternative is to position Stewards at each obstacle while the handlers and llamas hike the course on their own. Stewards stay at their assigned obstacles and score llamas as they pass through. This method may work well when there are many llamas to be tested on a short course. It has the disadvantage that, except for time spent at an obstacle, the llamas are not under the scrutiny of a Steward. Misbehavior can go unobserved, support may not be close by in the event of an emergency, and participants can get lost on the course.
Each trial level has specific obstacle requirements that must addressed on the course.
Basic Pack Trial Obstacle Requirements
|Up/Over/Across:||any obstacle from category|
|Foot Fear||any obstacle from category|
|Picking One's Way||any obstacle from category|
|Tight Places||any obstacle from category|
|Any Category:||any obstacle appropriate to trial level|
Advanced Pack Trial Obstacle Requirements
|Up/Over/Across:||any obstacle from category|
|Foot Fear||water (if possible)|
|Picking One's Way||deadfall|
|Picking One's Way||rubble|
|Tight Places||any obstacle from category|
|Slippery Slope||any obstacle from category|
|Load Management||any obstacle from category|
|Category a*||any obstacle from category|
|Category b*||any obstacle from category|
|Category c*||any obstacle from category|
|* Obstacles are chosen by the Trial Marshal from three different categories|
Master Pack Trial Obstacle Requirements
|Up/Over/Across:||any obstacle from category|
|Foot Fear||water (if possible)|
|Picking One's Way||deadfall|
|Picking One's Way||rubble|
|Slippery Slope||any obstacle from category|
|Load Management||panniers off and foot inspection|
|Eight complex obstacles, each created from combinations of obstacles from two or more categories||Any obstacles appropriate to the trial level|
Elite Pack Trial Obstacle Requirements
|Twenty complex obstacles, each created from combinations of obstacles from two or more categories||Any obstacles appropriate to the trial level|
The PLTA does not require Trial Hosts to supply liability insurance. Instead, PLTA has purchased a general Liability policy. Some land use managers require a Certificate of Insurance and possibly proof that their group be listed on an “also insured named” form. This latter requirement may incur a small additional fee. If a copy of a Certificate of Insurance or any other proof of insurance is required, the Trial Host must contact the PLTA as soon as possible and no later than two (2) weeks prior to the event, since these documents take time to process.
The current insurer of the PLTA requires that all PLTA event participants, including committee members, sign the “Acknowledgement of Risk and Waiver of Liability” form and for all handlers of llamas to be members of the PLTA at the time of the trial. For all non-owner handlers of llamas entered in a trial that are not PLTA members the PLTA specifically created the Associate membership to fulfill this insurance requirement.
All llamas are entered in any PLTA sanctioned event solely at the risk of the owner, and the PLTA assumes no risk or liability whatsoever for them.
The PLTA has established a protocol for dealing with accidents that may result in insurance claims. This protocol will be made available to all Trial Hosts. They are expected to likewise make it available to the Trial Committee. In addition, during a pack trial, a PLTA board member will be made available by phone to assist as necessary with insurance needs.
The PLTA Board of Directors has created a document titled ‘Safety First! But What If PLTA Insurance Is Needed?’ that describes procedures to be followed in case of emergency. This document should be thoroughly reviewed by all event staff. A copy of the document should be in the possession of the Trial Chairperson, Trial Secretary, Trial Stewards, and Trial Certifier during the event.
Prior to the trial the Trial Host will be supplied with the name and contact information of a Board member who will be available by phone during the trail and who will provide support in case of an accident. This person will be responsible for contacting the insurance company. Typically this will be the PLTA Secretary.
If an accident occurs during the event, the Trial Host will immediately contact the PLTA Board of Directors and explain the situation so that the Board may contact the insurance company. The Certifier, Steward and, to the extent possible, other individuals involved will each supply a detailed written report that thoroughly explains what happened. The process for reporting what happened is as follows:
Step 1. Document, Document, Document,
- Take pictures of the injury, of the people involved, of the llama involved and of the site.
- Write a description of what happened, sign it and date it. Include:
- Information about the individuals involved, including llamas'
- Full name
- PLTA number
- Contact information
- Details about how the incident occurred; who, what, when, where, and why.
- Details about how the incident was managed
- Images of the site, of injuries, of rescue activities, and anything else that might be pertinent.
- Information about the individuals involved, including llamas'
- Have the injured party provide a signed and dated description of what happened.
- Have the Trial Certifier and the Steward provide signed and dated descriptions of their experiences.
Step 2. Contact the PLTA Board of Directors.
Chain of command is extremely important during an emotionally packed incident. Without clear direction as to who is responsible for what, confusion can develop very quickly. To prevent this, the PLTA Board of Directors has determined that one person has the responsibility for contacting the Board of Directors; this is the Event Host. The order of precedence for contacting a PLTA officer is as follows:
- PLTA Secretary
- PLTA Treasurer
- PLTA President
Contact information for each of these people is available on the PLTA website at packllama.org. The PLTA officer is responsible for contacting the insurance company. It is important that trial participants do not attempt to contact the insurance people themselves.
Time Frame for Delivering Results
Results are to be compiled and delivered to the PLTA Secretary within six (6) weeks of the event. It is unfair to participants who may be looking forward to their certificates for Event Hosts to shun this responsibility. If no certificates are to be awarded, paperwork for the event must still be sent within the six-week time period. If the paperwork is not sent within the six-week period, an email notification will be posted to all PLTA members to the effect that the paperwork has not been received by the PLTA office and they are at risk of losing credit for their llamas’ accomplishments.
The PLTA Board can only ask for Event Hosts to professionally and responsibly return this paperwork. If a person responsible to report such paperwork becomes a chronic 'no-show', it may be in the best interests of PLTA membership that this person is not allowed to hold future PLTA events.
Responsibility for Proof of Completion
The Board of Directors has spent many hours trying to verify claims of llama owners for which documentation is unclear or cannot be found. As a result, it has become necessary to put the responsibility of supporting claims of accomplishment on the shoulders of the owner. Doing so also protects the owner from potential faulty reporting by the Trial Committee, and from lost records by the PLTA. It also removes the burden of proof and the need for many wasted hours by the Board of Directors hunting for non-existent records.
Furthermore, the owner of any llama participating in a trial is solely responsible for retaining proof of their llama’s participation. This shall take the form of a Proof of Completion document that states the date of the trial, its location, the full registered name of the participating llama, and the level of trial completed. The Proof of Completion shall also state the number of trials necessary for certification at that level and it shall be signed by the Trial Chairperson and the Trial Certifier. Without this proof (in hard-copy) of successfully completing a trial, no credit can be given to any llama or llama owner. Although careful records are kept by the PLTA Board of Directors, it must remain the responsibility of the owner to provide proof of completion of trials.
The PLTA supplies a form for this purpose, yet it suggests that Pack Trial Committees may wish to design their own forms as both an official document and as frame-able memorabilia for the event. Any such form must include the following information:
- The phrase “officially Sanctioned PLTA Pack Trial Proof of Completion”
- The full registered name of the llama
- The phrase “has completed the required manageability tasks, distance, elevation gain and obstacles”
- The name of the level completed
- The number of trials necessary to complete a certification level
- The name and date of the pack trial event
- Signature of the Trial Chairperson and the Trial Certifier
The Following table lists all the forms that are required for a PLTA pack trail.
|Form||One Form Required per||Responsible Person||Signatures Required||Recipient|
|Event Sanctioning||Event||Trial Secretary||PLTA Secretary||Chairperson|
|Financial Report||Event||Trial Secretary||Trial Secretary||PLTA|
|Trial Critique & Report||Event||Certifier||Certifier||PLTA|
|Proof of Completion||Llama per Trial||Chairperson||Chairperson & Certifier||Participant|
|Membership & Llama Registration||New Registrant||Participant||Participant||PLTA|
|Liability Waiver||Participant||Trial Secretary||Participant||PLTA|
|Field Test (Obstacle) Score Sheet||Trial||Trial Secretary||Steward||PLTA|
|Manageability Score Sheet||Trial||Trial Secretary||Steward||PLTA|
|Trial Results||Trial||Trial Secretary||None||PLTA|
|Trial Certification||Trial Day||Trial Secretary||Certifier||PLTA|
Event Sanctioning Form
This form is used to request sanctioning by the PLTA for an event held by an individual, group or other entity. Filing this form puts in motion review/approval of the request by the PLTA Board of Directors. It also begins the process of providing a mentor for the host, posting the event on the PLTA website and informing the insurance carrier.
Trial Entry Form
This form is used to enter a llama in a pack trial. It requires completion of both the llama and the member’s PLTA number. Acquiring these takes time. It is strongly recommended that this be done in advance of the event. However the form can be completed prior to the event or filled out on location. For convenience, it includes a section for enrolling people or registering llamas with the PLTA.
Acknowledgment of Risk and Waiver of Liability
To ensure insurance coverage, this form must be filled out by all persons attending PLTA events whether they are involved in the activities or not.
Manageability Score Sheet
The Manageability Score Sheet is used to record the evaluation of a llama’s performance of the Manageability Tasks at a trial. The evaluation may be made by a Steward or the Trial Certifier. In any case, the evaluator must completely, legibly and accurate fill out this form. It must then be signed, dated, and presented to the Trial Secretary.
Obstacle Score Sheet
The Obstacle Score Sheet is used by the Steward to score their evaluation of a llama’s behavior when negotiating Field Test obstacles and while on the course. The form includes the list of obstacles the llamas will encounter and is typically prepared before the trial begins. Stewards are required to record any performance deductions and their cause, and whether a llama successfully completes the obstacles and finishes the course. The Steward must completely, legibly and accurate fill out this form. It must then be signed, dated, and presented to the Trial Secretary.
Trial Certification Form
This form documents the course statistics as well as how long participants took to complete the course. Typically the Trial Secretary fills out the preliminary information while the Trial Certifier uses the form to record any anomalies in course requirements or changes they may have made to obstacles, elevation gain, time windows or distance. The Trial Certifier is responsible for completing, signing, and presenting the form to the Trial Secretary.
Trial Critique Form
This form should be made available to all participants who may fill it out at their discretion. Only the Trial Certifier is required to fill it out. The Certifier must include a completed copy with their report to the PLTA Board of Directors.
Trial Results Form
This form summarizes the information about all of the llamas who participated in the event. It is a critical piece of information that must accurately reflect the trial results and information on all other forms. It is to be filled out by the Trial Chairperson or their delegate, and signed and dated by the Trial Certifier.
Proof of Completion Document
These documents are presented to the owner of, or person responsible for, each llama that successfully completes a trial. It is used as tangible proof of the llama’s participation. The form is signed by the Trial Chairperson and Trial Certifier. Recipients should be advised to retain this form for their records.
The financial report provides a concise record of payments made and monies appropriated to the PLTA. It is particularly useful in helping the PLTA treasurer ensure financial records are correct. This document is signed by the Trial Secretary and included with materials sent to the PLTA staff when the Event has been completed.
The total number of trial completions required for award of certificates and titles is established by the PLTA Board of Directors. While any individual or organization is welcome and encouraged to conduct trials and to test pack llamas against a standard, including the PLTA standard, only the results from trials that have been sanctioned by the PLTA will be included in the PLTA database and considered in conferring PLTA Certificates and their associated titles. PLTA assumes no liability whatsoever concerning any of its services, certificates, or titles.
When trial results have been compiled, each qualifying llama is issued a PLTA Certificate. Upon issuance of this certificate the owner may display the credentials and title appropriate for the level their llama has achieved. This information will be publicly posted on the PLTA website and retained in PLTA records.
PLTA Pack Llama Titles
|Basic Pack Llama||BPL|
|Basic Pack String Llama||BSPL|
|Advanced Pack Llama||APL|
|Advanced String Pack Llama||ASPL|
|Master Pack Llama||MPL|
|Master String Pack Llama||MSPL|
|Elite Pack Llama||EPL|
|Elite String Pack Llama||ESPL|
Following the successful completion of the final trial necessary for certification, and upon receipt by the PLTA Secretary of the trial results and a suitable image of the llama in question, an official certificate will be issued by the PLTA stating the level achieved. The image is usually captured at the event, but it may be supplied otherwise. The llama owner is responsible for supplying an image of the quality appropriate for use on the certificate. Guidelines and suggestions submitting appropriate images can be found on the PLTA website.
From 2015 through 2017 Pack Trial Certificates were automatically issued to owners shortly after their llama successfully completed the final trial necessary to earn a title. Issuing these certificates was a big job for the PLTA secretary, especially when images of the llama in question were not made available.
Prior to the board re-shuffle in June of 2014 the PLTA staff had an undocumented policy of requiring a llama owner to submit a request for a certificate once their llama had successfully completed the necessary trials. This request included a form on which all qualifying trials were listed, an image of the llama, and a five dollar fee. The PLTA staff then reviewed the information and, if it was found to accurately conform to PLTA records, a certificate was issued.
This process was lost in the shuffle of restructuring the Board of Directors. The secretary then took on the full burden of issuing certificates as soon as he could determine they had been earned. In doing this, he found it difficult to get input from owners, especially in the form of images of the llama. To assist with this the Board wrote and supplied to the members guidelines for capturing and submitting the images. The Board further requested that the Pack Trial Chairperson see that this was done, and even submit the images themselves.
The Board found this recent process problematic. The Pack Trial Chairperson has plenty to deal with besides taking images, and often forgets. The Chairperson may not know who has earned a certificate and often has no way of finding out during the trials. Owners fail to submit images, and the PLTA secretary is unable to deliver certificates issued in a timely manner. Therefore, as of September 2017, the Board of Directors restored the original policy. Certificates will only be issued upon request.
How to Acquire a Certificate for Your Llama
The issuance of a Pack Trial Certificate requires application by the llama’s owner or the owner’s delegate. This application shall be made in using a form provided by the PLTA. The form includes the following information:
- The owner’s PLTA number
- The name and address of the person to whom the certificate shall be mailed
- The registered name of the llama
- The name the llama is typically called by, if different from the registered name
- The llama’s birth date, PLTA number and, if applicable, ILR number
- Dates and location of qualifying trials
- An image of the llama taken in accordance with PLTA recommendations
- A five dollar ($5) fee to cover the cost of materials and postage.
Unless demonstrated otherwise, the PLTA Board of Directors shall consider the PLTA database the accurate repository of llama activity unless proven otherwise. Members are advised of their responsibility to keep track of:
- Their personal PLTA number
- Their membership dues payments
- Their llama's PLTA number
- All pack trials completed, successfully or otherwise
- Levels achieved
- Certificates issued
- Mileage records
- Challenge points
When a llama has successfully completed the final trial necessary for certification at a specific level, they will have earned a PLTA hat pin. The pin awarded shall be in the color appropriate to the trial level. It will depict the PLTA logo and be inscribed with the word “Qualified”. These colorful enamel pins will be presented by the Trail Committee at the event during which the llama has earned certification. Colors for the levels are as follows:
- Basic – White
- Advanced – Yellow
- Master – Red
- Elite – Green
Pins for individual certification show a single llama, while pins for strings show two llamas.
|Number of Trials||2||3 – 4||3 – 4||2|
|Total # Obstacles||5||10||15||20|
|Elevation Gain||250 – 500||750 - 1000||1500 – 2000||2500 - 3000|
|Units of Effort2||4 – 5||8 – 9||14 – 16||20 - 22|
|1Distance may be substituted for elevation gain at a rate of 1 mile per 250 feet.|
|2See PLTA Pack Trial Handbook, Section 3.1: A Useful Tool for Calculating Distance/Elevation Gain|
|Field Test Obstacle Requirements|
from 2 or more categories.
|choice a||any||6||foot inspection|
|choice b||any||Combinations from 2 or more||8 obstacles|
|Field Test Obstacle Categories|
|1. Picking One’s Way||Move through material that obscures and complicates footing||
Deadfall, slash, rock rubble, dense deep grass
|2. Foot Fear||Walk through a medium into which the feet sink.||Water, mud, deep loose sand, cinder or gravel, soft snow 8” – 12” deep|
|3. Up/Down/Across||Extend stride to climb or stretch (16” – 24” up or down, no specs for across)||High step up, low step down, log, ditch|
|4. Tight Places||A space that allows limited room to maneuver||Brush, tunnel, duck under, weave, back & turn, squeeze|
|5. Slippery Slope||A slope of greater than 45 degrees that has loose footing and which may cause load shift||Steep slope up, steep slope down, across steep slope with narrow (8”) tread|
|6. Load Management||Handling of tack or llama's body, exclusive of head and halter||Top-loading, accessing pannier, cinch adjustment, bug spray, foot inspection, rain cover|
|7. Trail Hazard||Unexpected trail conditions||Structures, debris, livestock, people, pets, machines|
|Manageability Test Requirements|
|Haltering, Load & unload, Picketing (5 min. on 16’ lead), Saddling, Pannier attachment, String tie-in|
|1Basic Llamas between 2 and 2.5 years carry no load other than saddle and empty panniers|
|Elevation Adjustment for Mileage Changes|
|Highlighted elevation indicates standard requirement. Distances of less than standard are not recommended.|
|Age in Years||Age in Months|
|Master & Elite||4||48|
|Highlighted age indicates minimum age for trial|
Appendix 2. Steward’s Guide to Obstacle Objectives and Performance Point Deductions
Objective: The llama should stand calmly and still while the handler takes the halter off and then puts it back on.
Performance Point deductions should be made for any of the following:
a) The llama jumps around or kicks.
b) The llama tosses its head around during the haltering process.
c) The llama pushes the handler around with its body.
d) The llama spits or screams.
e) The handler is unable to either take the halter off or put it back on.
Objective: The llama willingly enters and exits the trailer or vehicle.
Performance Point deductions should be made for any of the following:
a) The llama balks or refuses to either enter or exit the trailer or vehicle.
b) The llama leaps out of or into the trailer or vehicle in an unsafe manner.
Objective: The llama acts in a calm manner while attached to the picket line. If they become entangled in the line, but remain calm, that's OK.
Performance Point deductions should be made for any of the following:
a) The llama becomes "hog-tied".
b) The llama becomes tangled and panics.
Note: If overnight camping took place and the llama was staked out all night without a problem, this task may be waived by the Trial Certifier.
c) The llama pushes into the handler forcing them to loose their balance.
SADDLING & PANNIER ATTACHMENT
Objective: The llama should stand calmly and still while saddling and while the panniers are attached. (String Trials require use of a chest strap on the lead llama if attaching the tied-in llama to the saddle of the lead llama.) Performance Point deductions should be made for any of the following:
a) The llama kicks or spits.
c) The llama dances around avoiding the handler or saddle or panniers.
d) If the handler is unable to safely saddle the llama or attach the panniers.
TIE-IN (String Trials Only)
Objective: The lead llama should stand calmly and still while the handler connects the trailing llama to the lead llama in string formation. The trailing llama should act in a calm and quiet manner while close to the lead llama and during the tie-in process. (All connections or tie-ins between llamas will be done with a quick release knot or breakaway system.)
Performance Point deductions should be made for any of the following:
a) Either llama spits or kicks at the handler or each other.
b) Either llama pushes into the handler forcing them to loose their balance or get entangled with the other llama.
c) Either llama dances around avoiding the tie-in process.
d) If the handler is unable to safely tie-in the llamas.
COURSE OBSTACLES (ON THE TRAIL)
Objective: For all trail obstacles, the objective is that the llama safely and calmly negotiates each obstacle while demonstrating a degree of training appropriate to the level they are entered in.
Performance Point deductions are REQUIRED to be made for any of the following:
a) The llama knocks the handler or any other person down.
b) The llama jumps for any reason other than jumping a ‘jump’ obstacle.
c) The llama kicks at its handler or any other person, llama, or trail occupant.
d) The llama lies down and refuses to attempt an obstacle.
e) The llama lunges through an obstacle in an unsafe manner.
f) The llama pushes its handler causing them to lose their balance.
g) The llama tries to pass its handler on the trail or during an obstacle.
h) The llama needs to follow another llama to complete any obstacle in the Master or Extreme levels.
The Steward should record details of the point deductions on the appropriate forms for further review if necessary.
Appendix 3. Pack Trial Governance CommitteePrintable Version (pdf 394KB) (pdf 394KB)
Pack Trial Governance Committee Charter
February 4, 2016
The continued growth and development of the PLTA has required a restructuring of tasks and functions. The Pack Trial Committee was created to function as the governing body for pack trials. The Committee will provide the first level of review to deal with Pack Trial issues. The Committee will also provide a link to the Board of Directors and other PLTA committees and programs.
II. Statement of Purpose
The purpose of the Pack Trial Committee is to provide direction and support to persons involved in PLTA Pack Trial events. This Committee will maintain rigorous standards for the trials, resolve issues regarding those standards, and by defining safe practices will meet those ends. Encouraging an educational and socially rewarding atmosphere the Committee also provides a public friendly environment.
The goals of the Pack Trial Committee are as follows:
A. Support an atmosphere of collegiality and professionalism at pack trials;
B. Resolve regulatory and procedural issues regarding pack trials;
C. Ensure that pack trial procedures establish a safe, enjoyable and educational experience for participants;
D. Provide authority to resolve disputes not resolvable by handlers, stewards, host or certifiers and ensure that disputes have a clear process for resolution;
E. Maintain and uphold consistent and stringent written standards for pack trials;
F. Ensure that pack trial procedures and regulations, are applicable across the variety of representative packing terrain and circumstances;
G. Ensure that the procedures for documentation of pack trial results are efficient and effective, and provide accurate long term retention of records;
H. Ensure that training and training materials for certifiers and other officials are consistent and appropriate;
I. Ensure that PLTA members and the public understand the function of pack trials and know that their input will be heard and is considered valuable; and
J. Ensure that appropriate documentation of all training requirements, rules and procedures is readily available to PLTA members and the public.
IV. Pack Trial Committee Chairperson
A. PLTA Committee Chairperson, appointed by the BOD, oversees the Pack Trial Committee, which reviews and adjusts rules and procedures for the pack trials.
B. The PLTA Chairperson’s responsibilities are as follows:
1. Coordinates with PLTA President to set committee goals, objectives, priorities and agenda; and
2. Provides leadership to the committee by designating duties to committee members and maintaining effective communications.
3. If circumstances dictate, may also serve as Pack Trial Manager.
V. Pack Trial Program Manager
A. Program Manager, Responsibilities include:
1. Supports the Pack Trial Committee;
2. Manages trial data;
3. Interfaces with Trial Hosts;
4. Sanctions trials; and
5. Communicates results with PLTA Secretary and Website Administrator.
A. Any issue confronting the Pack Trial Committee that may affect the well-being of the PLTA or other committees and programs must be presented first; to the PLTA President, followed by the Board of Directors. The Pack Trial Committee will, to the best of their ability, attempt to reconcile all “Pack Trial” issues that emerge while, at all times, keeping the President apprised of issues.
B. The Pack Trial Committee Chairperson will coordinate with other PLTA Committee Chairpersons to maintain administrative consistency. Any and all proposals by individuals for changes to the pack trials will route through the Pack Trial Committee. After consideration by the Committee, proposals will be routed to the Board of Directors for definitive action as is appropriate. The Pack Trial Committee will be responsible for considering issues and providing options for resolution and the improvement of Pack Trials.
A. Committee Members
The recommended number of members is 6 – 10 will provide a diverse enough group to balance responsibilities and ensure a broad scope of thought, ideas, and opinions.
B. Committee Member Obligations
Throughout the year, Committee members will be asked for their opinion and analysis of issues. Any member who finds the obligations too demanding may depart the committee after giving a minimum of a two week notice to the Chairperson. If Committee members are unwilling to adequately participate they may be asked by the Committee Chair to resign. One avenue of sharing will be the Yahoo Pack Trial group site at PLTA_packTrials@yahoo.com. Members are required to gain access to and participate in discussions on the site.