Pack Guars, Our Faithful Friends

by Llando Omavel

You can lead a guar to water, but you can’t make him drink. Aye, this is the basic character of a guar, but underneath their stubbornness is deep loyalty. Once you’ve established a bond with your guar, the beast will follow you to the ends of the world. It remembers its tasks well, and it’s steady as a rock. I write this book because our young ones have taken to breeding horses. Horses may be fleet of foot, but they’re skittish beasts, not suited to the hard terrain and ash storms of our proud land. It is best we remember how to breed and tame the noble guar, our companions since time immemorial.

Guars are not particularly fast animals, but they are strong and sure of foot. They make ideal pack animals. They are intelligent creatures, so once they learn, they learn for life. Guars prefer to eat roots and tubers, but mostly eat coarse grains, like wickwheat and saltrice. This is the guar’s staple diet. It’s not a good idea to spoil them on corkbulb and ash yams, but these make a fine treat that can grease the wheels a bit while training them.

Most farmers in the Ascadian Isles will tell you a bred guar is better than a tamed one, as they’re much easier to break when they’re young. However, they’ll insist it is the only way, and this is simply not so. Since our people came to this land, guars have been tamed and adapted to our uses for generations. The Ashlanders allow the guars to run wild and free, only claiming one or two from the herd when the need arises. Wild northern guars are hardier beasts than the ones you find bred in the south, so they’re well fit for the taking. An adult guar does not take well to breaking, so it’s best to catch them young.

Picking the right guar out of a wild herd is a delicate business, and it’s usually done with the aid of the Ashlanders. Most Ashlander tribes charge local farmers a reasonable price to capture young wild guar. A yearling is best, since they’ve just left their mothers. The Ashlanders don’t usually take the very young, to avoid having to kill their defensive mothers. Wild northern guars, even if they don’t take well to taming, make the best breeding stock. Make sure to carefully examine a new guar for signs of disease before introducing it to the herd.

Taming a guar, whether it’s been bred or captured from the wild, takes patience and a strong will. A guar will only accept you as its master if you approach it with a firm gaze, a steady hand, and a calm voice. Guars only attack when threatened, so it’s important to make sure the beast gets well accustomed to people. When first breaking the guar, it must be roped before a lead can be tied. Do not try to lead the animal until it’s comfortable with its harness. Allow it to stand freely while tied, and try to keep the beast calm. Make sure to pat the beast down frequently, so it gets accustomed to you and other people. It will take several days before the beast is ready for the next step in its training.

The next step is to get the guar accustomed to being led. With a gentle tug on the lead, pull to the side to get it to turn. Make sure your verbal commands are consistent, and it will eventually learn. As soon as the beast gives, make sure to reward it with a tasty ash yam or corkbulb root. Force will not work – a guar will simply dig its heels in when pushed or pulled. A guar needs to trust its master, and it will go when it feels comfortable. It’s your job to make it feel comfortable with you and the job it needs to do.

Once the guar is moving on command, it must get accustomed to difficult terrain. The guar should be led over rocks, brambles, streams, and other obstacles. The guar will try to find the path of least resistance. You want the guar to go straight, and step over any obstacle in its path. The beast will resist at first. It will try to go around, but you must hold firm. Make sure you reward it well when it begins to do what you want, and if it resists, give it time.

As soon as your guar is being led with no trouble, you can begin to pack it. Start with the packing harness, and give it a couple days to get comfortable with its constraints. Keep leading it all the while, and gradually over the next few weeks, start adding weight to the pack. You’ll find, once the guar is comfortable, it will take to the extra weight with no trouble. Once this training is complete, you’ll have a steady pack animal.

Packing is as far as most guars are ever trained, but they can be taught to ride. The Ashlanders are expert guar riders. Once a guar has been taught to pack, it is a little more difficult to get it accustomed to a rider. It’s easy enough to put a saddle on a pack guar, but it takes a lot of time and skill to get the beast accustomed to the shifting weight of a rider. Nearly all riding guars are trained by Ashlanders, and they do not give their secrets away. Their price for a good riding guar is steep, so riding guars are rare outside Ashlander tribes.

Remember, whatever use you may adapt your guar to, it is your companion. An ill-treated guar will never do what you want, so make sure you always treat it right. Once a guar is used to being used by people, it will take well enough to just about anybody, so long as a deep trust can be established.

Text by Sarah Dimento (a.k.a. Stuporstar)