by Curtis Imrie
Get a Burro
It's cheaper to buy one from the BLM than to rent one. However, an "educated" ass is valuable. Don't be afraid to pay what you would for a grade horse if the burro is proven runner, packer, rideable and driveable and between 4- 12 years old. It costs the same to. feed bad stock as good stock. Training and vitality are what I pay for.
Work With Your Animal
Basically, you train them with love and wet saddle blankets. "Handy" them through a winter and they'll remember on the trail. Every runner develops his or her own style, and only by finding the fun and regularity of the training process will you cut the deal with your livestock/pet that will put you in the money come race time.
Take a long pack trip with your animal -- at least one overnight, two if possible. This is where you try to do everything at a leisurely pace that you might encounter in a race -- creeks, bridges, hardtop. Packing gear, straps, rigging. You learn about your critter's limits. You want to know when he, she or it is holding out on you and when the animal is actually maxed physically. There's a fine line in a race between when to ask for more and when to back off and just maintain the rhythm you've got.
Many races are won and lost through a burro's mouth and feet. What and how you feed and trim, shoe their feet. The trained wild burro is still the best stock on pack burro courses. They do fine on rough grass, stick and twigs and have rocks for feet. Respecting their natural selection with natural grain concentrates and good trimming, you can have as fine a pack burro racing machine as there is if you can find away to their renegade hearts ... which may take imprinting, raising the domestic offspring of two wild critters and having the unique satisfaction of truly knowing the oldest domesticated, large quadruped man has ever encountered.
Training — It Pays
Get Yourself in shape. If nothing else, our poor man's PGA/rodeo circuit makes you fess up and point to certain dates in the year to put your body on the line and not get hurt and maybe excel. Everything your grandma said was true. Regular sleep, three square meals. Helps if you can run a decent 10K or finish a marathon. Strength, endurance and flexibility. Moderation in all things... including moderation.