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Wondering if anyone has any advice or tips on how hard to push goats on the trail when they're "in training" at various ages.

I have a 2 yo Kiko that's so gung-ho I think he'd probably actually die before he'd quit following me on the trail (ok, the two things would technically probably happen at the same time; having him die and then quit following me a couple hours later would be weird).

As far as loads go, if they're less than a year old, they don't go on long hikes at all, yearlings can hike but don't carry anything, two year olds carry a light load, and three year olds and up carry a regular load (obviously depending on weather, terrain, distance, conditioning level, health, blah blah blah).

My main question is about physical signs that the goats are tiring and how hard to push them at various stages of fatigue. When I'm conditioning them, I do want them to be tired by the end of the day; that's what makes them stronger. I just don't want to push them so hard that it injures them.

From what I've seen, at least when the weather is warm, overheating seems to be the first thing that happens, long before muscle fatigue or dehydration. All of my goats have horns, which I know helps with cooling, and we take frequent breaks in the shade. Most of our hiking is up around 9000 feet and higher, so you cool off pretty quick as soon as you get in the shade.

Even after a long, hot hike, they often don't seem too interested in getting a drink like a horse or dog would. I know they retain water much better than a lot of other animals, so I suppose they might just not be thirsty.

Any pointers on the subject would be much appreciated.
 

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My Saanen has been camping and going on long hikes since he was just a few months old (packless of course), and he never had trouble keeping up. Then again the most I'd hike in a day was about 6 miles, but still, a lot of climbing, etc. Maybe it just depends on the goat?
 

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Last week I took my 3 month old alpine, Bacchus, on a 2 day hike in the Uintas. It was his first big hike and he did great. I'd say each day was 6-8 miles with only mild climbing. He stayed right with me and never showed any signs of being sore or tired. The only one I ever have trouble with is Amelia Goat-hart. She over-heats faster than the others, but I think its the half Saanan in her. But she and Shelby hiked a lot as 5 month olds last year and are none the worse for it.

The way I think about it is that goats back through history were born and within a week were probably expected to keep up with the herd as they moved around from pasture to water to shelter etc. We're probably being over-protective when we get too concerned about them having to walk a few miles. So long as its not a forced march in the baking sun. The good thing is that goats that go out on walks early in life will never know a time when they weren't on the trail. It'll be their natural habitat as far as they're concerned, and their body and mind will be programmed for that life style as they grow. I sure saw Bacchus bond with the rest of the herd on that trip. Its like he was born for the life of a pack goat.
 

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Panting is something to monitor you'll become sensitive to what is normal from the heat and what is very tired. Obviously a motivated goat that lays down is telling you something. Mine will actually change the way they walk dragging feet a little or tripping. Head and ear posture change with fatigue. If you stand still a minute and the goat looks for a place to lye down. I've never had one quit but they get awful tired and seem to recover quickly with rest, water and nutrition. Watch them, get to know their character, and before you know it they teach you goat language.
Good luck.
 

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I'll echo what others have said about hiking with young goats. A few years ago we took our first goats, who were only six months old at the time, out on a week-long backpack trip. We averaged about 6 - 8 miles a day, and the goats kept up fine (they weren't packing, of course!).

As for how hard you can push a goat in training, I suspect that answer will vary depending upon the breed and the climatic conditions that you are training in.

I have often heard that Saanens are particularly heat sensitive, and that has been our experience. Even when they are well conditioned, we have noticed that when we hike/pack in temps above 75 degrees they will start panting and will immediately seek shade whenever we stop. On the plus side, they seem unfazed by the often bitter winter temps we sometimes get in this part of the country.
 
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