I did it! I got to work with some burros! I wasn’t kidding about burro racing. This is going to happen. As my awesome friend Melissa, and co-burro racer, put so eloquently ...
“So many things in alignment with the 2014 Burro Racing.....2014 is the Year of the Horse! Coincidence, I don't think so ...
And there's more: Year of 2014 is Wooden Horse. Because Wood (tree) is connected to the color of Green. Therefore, 2014 is the Year of Green Wood Horse ... Green, wood,.....trails....it's all connected.”
Seriously, with support and sound logic like that ... how can we not? And, yes, bring on the ass jokes!!
So, my suburban brain has been working for months on how to go about this. More importantly, how to go about this the right way.
There are lots of ranches that raise and train pack burros. Added bonus, they take care of all transportation for races. Our goal is to start right away for next summer racing and building a working relationship with a racing buddy.
So what do I know about donkeys? Well ...
|There's that ...|
|Can't forget ...|
|And that ...|
Yep, this was a problem.
So I read and read and researched and researched. How do I know if I have a good ranch? How on earth am I going to really learn everything possible about burros? How am I going to manage to get as much hands on experience as possible? How do I make sure to do right by my pack burro?
And I stumbled across the right answer.
I found The Longhopes Donkey Shelter. The website totally pulled me in. The largest burro rescue in Colorado started in 1998 by Kathy Dean. With what started with a few donkeys, the shelter has grown to a huge operation and currently has over 60, most available for adoption and many for whom Longhopes is their forever home.
What better way to help and be helped by volunteering at Longhopes? So I contacted the shelter hoping not to come across as too much of a flake. Kathy was great on the phone and I set up a time to come by for orientation Saturday morning.
The drive to Bennett is about 40 minutes from my house. Easy as can be. I pulled into Longhopes and saw an immaculate property with open yards, pastures, shelters, and corrals. I was paired up with Karen, another volunteer, who I immediately clicked with. She set us to task and taught me so much about the donkeys, their stories, care, the adoptive process. She was great with my nonstop questions. She was extremely frank about the ranches around the area and who to trust and who to steer clear from. Better yet, I learned about outfitters that adopt Longhopes burros for pack training instead of breeding. Bingo!!! This was above and beyond what I was hoping for.
|Me and Bliss - pretty sure I'll be spending a lot of time with her|
She popped me right in the coral of Jennets and started introducing me to the girls. Two came right up to me, Bliss and Taffy. Bliss seemed to be running the show and glommed right onto me. Taffy, a sweet little spotted girl, was a little shier but very curious and happy to be checking me out.
Karen explained that Bliss was hand raised as her mother abandoned her (for the record, Longhopes is a no breed facility, but pregnant mares come in all the time). She was full of personality and would lean on you if you dared to ignore her. Karen took particular pride in Taffy. She came in about 7 months ago - starved, two huge wounds on her neck, and terrified of people. Everyone was very careful not to get attached to her as there was a good chance that she would need to be put down. But she came through her ordeal and was able to adapt to people and learned how to trust. A total triumph ... snorting in my ear and checking out my pockets.
I learned that many of the donkeys at Longhopes come from the slaughter truck - which is what happens to donkeys up for auction that are not sold. Fortunately, Longhopes is usually contacted before they are shipped away and they are able to save them. Got a lump in your throat? Yeah, me too.
I got to play with the babies for a while - 4 total, adorable little bundles of gangly legs, ears, and eyes. Next I spent some time with the seniors and learned a lot about their special needs. Then I got to work currying out some of the mares which was a riot. Once they spot you with a brush in hand you are swamped. The better behaved ones just lined up and wait, but the more naughty girls wills lean right into you, rest their heads on your shoulder, or nudge at you until their turn comes. It was great.
|Trooper and (I believe) Heidi - two of the babies.|
We talked about my training and the best way to move forward. Both Karen and Kathy were extremely enthusiastic about me working with the donkeys on leads and seeing if some could be runners. There was plenty of property and a nice, long dirt road by the ranch. We discussed a handful of Jacks and Jennets who would be the best candidates. I also got to halter a few and walk a while.
|All it takes is to hear one carrot snap and here they come. The eye protectors are to keep the flies away in all the nasty heat lately.|
The potential is fan-freaking-tastic. As a matter of fact, Kathy wanted to know how soon I’d like to try running. I really want to take my time and make sure I’m ready and able to do right for these sweeties ... as much as I would like to start tomorrow.
Ultimately, I expect to be using a ranch trained burro for my races next year. I am just too inexperienced to presume I can take this on myself. But what if I can help keep these sweet donks healthy and train them to make them more adoptable? How great would that be?
- Become a burro aficionado.
- Start running with them.
- Once I become proficient let the kids come along to volunteer with me.
- If burro running starts to work out at the rescue, then start recruiting some of my runner buds to come out to help exercise them - I really, REALLY want this (hint, hint)!!!
- Summer 2014 take it to the next level for Burro Days in Fairplay!!!
“For, brother, the depth of your gentle eyes
Is strange and mystic as the skies:
“What are the thoughts that grope behind,
Down in the mist of a donkey mind?
“Can it be true, as the wise men tell,
That you are a mask of God as well,