Monday, July 12, 2010

Day Twenty Eight - Mammoth Burros and Zebra Stripes

Another spurt of crazy-fun, jam-packed, activity-filled weekend time. My girl Vanessa's bridal shower up in my old tromping grounds, Summit Cove (near Dillon, CO). Sunshine, mimosas, even a short run to see my old house... and of course staying up too late to reminisce with the slumber-party girls.

But before that, on Friday, I was lucky enough to be part of the Happy Bottom Running and Riding Club. This is a group led by the famous Curtis Imrie - apparently a legend of sorts in the Salida/ Buena Vista/ Leadville area. www.curtisimrie.com

For starters, his burros are like nothing I have ever seen. They are called MAMMOTH burros and... OMG.... they are huge. Like 18 hands huge. Like the tips of their ears would reach the top of a standard door frame. Like 7 feet tall huge. And so freakin' cute I just wanted to cuddle with them. In the below photo, the little butt is a standard donkey. The big donkey butt is a Mammoth named Big Chief. Check out how huge this beast is. The man standing next to him in the one pic (Brad Wann) is about 6 feet tall. Curtis, his proud owner (in blue), is more like 5'9."

Okay. So Mammoth Burros. Check. And what else? WILD burros! The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) participates in a program that aims to achieve sustainability for wild burros and horses in Colorado. This means that some of the wild burros are taken out of the herd and put up for adoption. These wild burros are branded with the BLM brand and adopted by responsible owners like Curtis. Or in the BLM's words:

"The Bureau of Land Management’s top priority is to ensure the health of the public lands so that the species depending on them – including the nation’s wild horses and burros – can thrive.   To achieve that end, the BLM’s wild horse and burro program must be put on a sustainable course that benefits the animals, the land, and the American taxpayer."

BLM Director Bob Abbey

These guys look waaay different than the others. No white nose (see - the girl on the end is domestic). Dark grey color. And ZEBRA stripes on their legs!! You can't really see them in this pic, but they are definitely prehistoric-looking. I was honored to be given a wild (but now domesticated) burro on Friday. She was named Sabina (pink halter), and she was AMAZING. Her sister Gypsy was a bit spooked, but Sabina was a champ with the pack on and all.

SO. Gorgeous scenery. Snowballs. Big sigh. It was awesome. I can't even put it into words. 7.5 miles of glory.
Unfortunately Big Chief (the Mammoth Burro) had an injury in the trailer on the way out, and we stopped and got him stitches. I held his head, covered his eyes, and tried to keep him calm. His head might weigh about 60 lbs. But he is so adorable and sweet...

SO. Now I have made five training runs with several different runners, animals, and trails. And I have learned a bit. The most crucial thing I have learned is about the dynamics of the human-burro team. I don't think there is such thing as a "bad burro." Rather, what I am learning is how to communicate my wants/needs/expectations to the burro. If my donkey isn't cooperating, it's because I'm not being clear enough with him or her. 

For the first half of Friday's run, Sabina didn't seem to be cooperating. But after about the first 3 miles, I learned how to communicate with her. I learned what she needed and how to tell her what I needed. The last half of the run was so much better - so much smoother.

But more than that, these big goofy animals teach me so much about myself. They teach me about patience and persistence and, without waxing too sentimental or metaphoric, they teach me about life. About getting through the tough spots and being stubborn and going through with it anyhow... about being scared of bridges and puddles. They teach me about the encouragement necessary to go uphill.

Plus they are always good for a long hug and an ear-rub that is sure to bring your blood pressure down and leave you, not only with dirt under your fingernails, but with a smile on your face. 

And at the end of a run, what's better than using your burro as a piece of furniture?


  1. I feel like as you are learning from the burros and your experiences with them, reading your adventures and more so hearing about them from you, is teaching me as well. Keep it up!

  2. Do these burros really RUN with you? or is it a slow jog/walk and sometimes a run?

  3. It is definitely a jog/walk, sometimes run. We have been training, so we aren't giving it the full gas on training runs. Uphill I'd say we walk some parts and try to get the burros to pull some. Downhill really is running! These guys can get out of control and pull you all the way down a mountain with their long legs. It is a beautiful feeling when a burro starts to canter.