For most of us, running is a solo endeavor, but not for today’s guest.
He both trains and races with very unlikely partners, which we are sure to get into during our chat.
I am looking forward to going a few easy miles with Shane Weigand today!
Doggone Good Time
Shane Weigand was always a solo runner until he moved to New Mexico for a job.
After a big move and knowing no one, he decided to get a labrador puppy.
Shane often came home after a long day to a destroyed house courtesy of his new four-legged family member.
He decided the best way to curb the behavior was to get the dog out for exercise which often included running.
His dog is 10 years old now, and in that time, Shane learned a lot about building trust and bonds with animals.
He currently has 3 dogs that he still routinely runs with.
Unbeknownst to him, he would end up running with a much more unlikely partner.
It All Started With A Girl
Shane’s unique running journey really began after he met his wife.
His wife owned horses and was big into the equine world.
Shane, therefore, began to learn more about them as well.
He loved being outdoors and frequently went hunting, focusing specifically on elk.
Hunting elk also involved finding a way to get the massive animal out of the mountains where he was hunting.
Shane considered himself to be in great shape at the time and yet he struggled to get the elk meat down the mountain.
Initially, he thought about getting a llama to assist in carrying the meat, but then he found a donkey for sale on Craig’s List.
His original plan for the donkey would ultimately end up taking a much different turn.
An Unlikely Running Partner
In his search online to figure out how to care for a donkey, Shane came across pictures of people running with donkeys.
He was intrigued and soon discovered the sport of pack burro racing.
Shane immediately fell in love with the idea of running with his donkey and began to research the sport.
The legend surrounding the sport is that two miners struck gold and had to run back to town with their donkeys to claim the stake.
In the 1940s, mining towns were beginning to die and needed a way to pull tourists in.
Nine years later the first official pack burro race occurred and has grown steadily ever since.
Pack burro races typically take place in the mountains in the western United States.
The races vary in length from 5k up to 29 miles.
As with any race, there are a few rules that all participants must adhere to.
Riding the donkey is strictly prohibited, the runner must run with the animal.
In staying with the spirit of the race, the donkey must have a saddle, pack, pan, pick, and shovel.
There are three types of donkeys that are allowed to race which include: mini, standard, and mammoth.
Shane learned very quickly that learning to run with a donkey can be a very humbling experience.
Donkeys are quite the opposite of horses when it comes to their personalities.
Building trust and developing a bond is the key to a successful running relationship.
Donkeys get a reputation for being stubborn, which Shane has realized stems from their trust issues.
They are extremely smart animals and typically take time to assess situations before cooperating.
That assessment often takes the form of stopping and being “stubborn.”
It took Shane and his first donkey about two months of consistent work before they had built trust.
Learning To Work Together
The first race that Shane completed with his first donkey was a 10-mile race.
Shane realized after the race that he hadn’t conditioned his animal’s feet enough for the rough terrain.
They slowed significantly during the race and he officially learned about the “Last Ass” prize in most races to the last-place finishers.
Over time and with more practice, Shane and his running partner have been quite successful, even winning a few races.
There are three different positions to run with a donkey which are:
- Leading- running in front
- Running next to the animal
- Driving- running behind
Each way can have advantages and disadvantages, but each team must figure out what works best for them.
Shane prefers to communicate with hand signals, but some teams prefer to use verbal commands in place of or in addition to.
Several places have begun to allow people to rent donkeys for the day.
Shane loves that more people are getting exposed to the sport, but as mentioned earlier trust takes time.
His suggestion is to stay at a location for at least a week or more and go out multiple times with the same animal to build more of a bond.
Shane has a training schedule for burro running much like he would if training for any other race.
Over the course of a training cycle leading up to a race, he and the donkey will slowly ramp up training.
In the early stages, they may go out twice a week, while closer to the race it may increase to as much as 5 times per week.
According to Shane, donkeys are relatively low-maintenance animals, especially when compared to horses.
The biggest issue that he has run into has been with their feet.
A wild donkey will typically have feet that are hardier and need less maintenance.
A donkey that was born and raised in captivity will likely have more sensitive feet that require more care.
Shane has had success with rubber booties for their feet and he is also looking into steel horseshoes.
The average life span for a donkey can be as much as 30 to 40 years.
It is recommended to wait until the donkey is about 2 to 3 years old to begin training to ensure the animal won’t get injured.
The three most common ways a donkey can be acquired are online, through a rescue, or through various wild donkey programs.
This year alone, Shane is aware of about 20 pack burro racing events.
The races typically coincide with a larger family-friendly festival or event.
Shane highly recommends watching a race in person if possible.
When observing an event in person, it quickly becomes clear how unique each donkey’s personality is.
Overall, donkeys are chill animals that rarely injure a person.
For more information on the sport, Shane recommends visiting The Western Pack Burrow Association online.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- New Mexico Pack Burros
- Western Pack Burro Association
- Bureau Of Land Management Wild Horse And Burro Program
- Running With Sherman Book By Christopher McDougall
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