Alpacas vs Llamas: Telling the Two Apart

During the Nebraska State Fair, Garrett and I walked through the various barns. We found ourselves in the alpaca/llama/goat barn where we admired all the animals, and got a chuckle out of the costume contest going on.
There was one alpaca (see picture) that was quietly and constantly “talking.” It was a bit of a groan mixed with a hum.
Garrett, being Garrett, decided to talk back. I think they carried on the conversation for a good 5-7 minutes until a random man came walking by, looked at the alpaca, and said, “llama, llama, llama” very fast and very loudly, and then left. Garrett and the his new alpaca buddy, stared at each other shocked and appalled. You see, alpacas and llamas, while camelid cousins, are not the same.
If you want to avoid calling an alpaca a llama and vice versa, there are a few signs to look for. Know the differences and avoid offending these guys. You’ll also prevent yourself from looking a bit silly like that llama, llama, llama man did.

Ears: Perhaps the easiest distinguishing factor between llamas and alpacas is their ears. Llamas have banana shaped ears while alpacas have straight, pointed ears.

Size: Alpacas are much smaller than their cousins, weighing around 100-200 pounds. Llamas weigh 250-450 pounds.

Fiber: Alpacas are known for their soft, luxurious fiber. A llama’s fiber is much coarser.

Purpose: Llamas are used as pack or guard animals. Alpacas are used for their fleece. Llamas are actually used to protect alpaca herds.

Temperament: Llamas are rather brave and bold, hence their purpose. Meanwhile, alpacas are shy and more docile.

Now, test yourself–is the costume class pictured above for llamas or alpacas?

I wonder if Garrett would be up for an alpaca now that he’s bonded with one? Good thing we live in an apartment, so it isn’t really an option 😉


A Weekend in Western Nebraska

With Labor Day approaching, the hubs and I decided to explore this state of Nebraska we now call home. Taking advantage of the long weekend, we made a plan, booked a hotel, and ended up having an awesome time!

After Garrett’s last class on Friday, we packed the car and began our 6 hour trip from Lincoln to Scottsbluff, NE. The landscape changed from flat fields of corn to rolling prairie filled with cattle.


Scottsbluff greeted us with spectacular sunset skies that made a beautiful backdrop for Chimney Rock. We were starving by the time we got to town at 8:30pm so ate before checking into the hotel for the night.


When in western Nebraska, the first thing you should do is leave Nebraska. No, seriously, that is exactly what we did. We drove the 45 minutes to Register Cliff which is in Wyoming. Register Cliff was a stopping point for settlers on the Oregon Trail. There are hundreds of names inscribed from those who had traveled the trail centuries ago. It was amazing to see the names and imagine who they were and what their story was. We even found someone with the last name of See…pretty unusual when we haven’t even met someone else with our last name before.


Our next stop was off of the same road as Register Cliff. The Guernsey Ruts are wagon ruts carved into rock. Hundreds and thousands of wagons made the trek west, and their mark is branded into the ground that they trod. I was amazed at what humans did. Guernsey Ruts has an easy, paved trail that made a loop. It also has a lovely picnic shelter with great views. We ate lunch there with the lunch food we had packed for the weekend (ham sandwiches, BLTs, boiled eggs, pasta salad, popcorn chicken, and cookies).


After lunch, we headed back the way we had come into the town of Fort Laramie. Here we drove to the old Fort Laramie. Originally established as a fur trading fort in 1834, it transformed into a military post. It housed soldiers until 1890 when it was sold at auction to homesteaders. Eventually, there were efforts made to preserve the many buildings at the fort. Some of the buildings have been redone, but others lie in ruins. It took around two hours to make our way around the fort and through the different buildings. It was truly fascinating. Fort Laramie is a bit of civilization in the middle of nowhere.


We enjoyed our time in Wyoming, but it was time to head back to Nebraska. We stopped at a few places like a gift shop for ice cream in the town of Fort Laramie and down a dirt road to an access point for the Platte River. We also found the Army Iron Bridge. It was built in 1875, a bit too late for many of the settlers to use to cross the Platte, but just in time to be used by the military. Simply, we just explored anything interesting along the way which made for a wonderful day.

Army Iron Bridge


Platte River Access Point

Day two was hike day. Our biggest hike we scheduled for the morning to avoid the heat and so we were fresh. Scotts Bluff National Monument was a landmark for those on the Oregon Trail on their way west. Prairie grasses give way to a large rock formation guiding them on their way. Entering the park costs $5 for a seven day pass. We hit the trail to the top of the bluff. It was 1.6 miles one way and straight up. It was a nice paved path, but steep in areas. For those who don’t want to hike the trail, no worries, you can drive to the top. It was a fabulous walk with amazing views and a tunnel through the bluff. I’ll admit, I was glad to get to the top, though. Your girl was a bit winded. At the top are some .5 mile loops with various views. We walked those too and walked back down. Tip: don’t forget sunscreen. We had to put some on at the top of the trail.


Once a bit sweaty and sun-kissed, we meandered down the road to Chimney Rock, 30 minutes away. We ate lunch in the parking lot (it would have been better to eat at Scotts Bluff in hindsight). The Chimney Rock visitor center costs to enter the museum and viewing center. We decided that it wasn’t worth it, so we just grabbed some pictures outside and went to our next stop. It is important to realize you can’t hike to Chimney Rock.


We hit the road once more and traveled to Jail and Courthouse Rock. This one is off the beaten path a bit. We drove past it at first, but turned around to head down a dirt road lined with sunflowers. It leads to a dead-end road. There is a small footpath that goes up to the rock figures. There are no signs, so we were cautious, but absolutely loved the seclusion and adventure. Highly recommend this stop.


Our last stop of the day was a random place Garrett found called Riverside Park. It has a campground, zoo, and a great path along the river with informative signs. It was a great way to end the day!

Our last day on vacation, we drove an hour north to Agate Fossil Beds. Make sure you fill up your gas tank before heading up there. Gas stations and cell service aren’t a thing.


Agate used to be a ranch, but the rancher found fossils in the 1890’s. Originally, the land was Lakota Sioux territory. It is a gorgeous area with a fabulous museum. The rancher was a big friend with the Lakota and a room filled with gifts given to him are on display. There are two trails on the premises. One is short, but shows fossilized burrows. The other trail is a little over two miles, but paved with great views and old dig sites! We picnicked at the base of the trail.


This is a fossilized burrow.


Leaving Agate, we turned on a dirt road that we took for about 30 miles. The remoteness was astounding, and we even saw pronghorn!


On the way home, we stopped at Carhenge in Alliance. It was a short stop, but it is fascinating to see a man’s imagination and artistic ability. We took HWY 2 home. These were more back-roads but some great sights. The biggest issue is there aren’t a lot of options for food, but with proper planning, it isn’t an issue.


While many Nebraskans will tell you to leave Nebraska to go on vacation (and technically we did that the first day), the state of Nebraska has some amazing places just waiting to be explored.

We made a u-turn to take a picture of this beauty. Props to Garrett for being the photographer.

Passion of the Percherons: Getting Ready with Young Living Horses & Team

Cyclone, Bode, Huey, Tuff, Ice, Jag, Elk, and Rocket.

These are the names of the 8 wonderful gentlemen I had the pleasure of meeting recently at the Nebraska State Fair. They all had dark hair and were well over 6 feet tall. It isn’t often I feel as if I’m in the presence of giants since I’m fairly tall myself. However, these guys have a way of making you look up and feel small.

Now, you are probably wondering who these guys are. With names like those, you may think I met some sort of band. They aren’t a part of a band, but they are all stars. These 8 gentlemen are the Percheron horses of the Young Living Exhibition Team.


Young Living is a company (you may have heard of it) that produces essential oils. Their founder, Gary Young, loved horses. It only made sense to combine his passion for essential oils and horses together. At their Whispering Springs Farm in Mona, Utah, they have over 120 horses and focuses on draft and Fresian horses.

A handful of those horses are able to travel to various fairs and shows to compete and represent the Young Living brand and products. The 8 horses I met do not compete in shows, but do show off at fairs as the exhibition team.

Each horse is filled with personality. They may look very similar, but they are each unique. Those who get to handle and care for them can tell you all about each one.




Here enters my friend Bradley Glover. Bradley and I grew up in the same county and showed livestock together. Bradley loves draft horses. He has interned with the large Clydesdales at Budweiser and helped drive wagons in Yellowstone National Park. Now he is living in Utah with the Young Living Percheron horses.


I got a text from Bradley asking how close I was to Grand Island, Nebraska. Garrett and I then made plans to drive up to see Bradley (Garrett and Bradley worked together at NCSU) and meet the horses at the Nebraska State Fair.

Bradley not only helps feed and care for each of the horses with four others on the exhibition team, but he also helps prepare each horse for their performance.


It takes about 2 hours to braid and comb the horses manes and tails. In addition, they add boots, paint their hooves and make sure they are clean. They also tack all the horses up in harnesses and gear that weighs about 100 pounds per horse. This sounds heavy, but each horse weighs around 2,000 pounds. Huey may weigh a tick more…he likes his food.



After they are decked in their purple splendor, they are practically itching to go. It was so funny to see the horses nodding their heads and straining to get into their harness. They love their job and love to perform. They were ready!


After they are harnessed up, they are hitched to the wagon. In a 6-horse hitch, there are three positions: lead, swing, and wheel. Typically the largest and most trustworthy horses are placed in the wheel position. These are Tuff and Jag. The swing horses must stay in their spots and help round corners. Elk and Cyclone are swingers. Finally, the lead horses are often the flashiest horses who really like to prance. Bode and Huey are the guys for the job.



And what about the man behind the reins? That would be Jason Goodman. He has been around draft horses about all of his life. His wife Rose, who is also on the team, has a long history with draft horses as well.



No matter what your position on the team, everyone pitches in to get the job done. That job is making those 8 gentleman looking spectacular, and that job involves shoveling manure, cleaning equipment, braiding hair, feeding, washing, and so much more.


Thanks to the hard work of all the team members, the horses do indeed look spectacular in the ring. With Jason Goodman guiding the team, they trot, make figure eights, dock, and full on run. Their time in the ring seems like a blur, and I do believe the horses wouldn’t mind one bit if they could go around the ring once or 3 times more.



They will soon do it all over again, though, showing crowds that big doesn’t mean they can’t be agile or graceful. They proved to me that, although lovable and goofy in the barns, they are all business and style when it is show time.

Cyclone, Elk, Bode, Huey, Rocket, Jag, Ice, and Tuff, you guys are amazing!

Bradley, Jason, Rose, Cole, and Henry, thank you for letting me capture your normal. I so enjoyed soaking up your knowledge and witnessing the passion you have for draft horses.

Garrett, thanks for carrying my camera bag and reaching up high for a couple of photos. I think we found your size of animal.

Young Living, kudos to you for what you do with these horses and sharing them with the public.