Posts Tagged ‘Burros’

Have story, will travel

April 6, 2015
Next stop this Wednesday at Greenhorn Valley Library in Colorado City

I’m not the most natural public speaker, but one of the things I’ve enjoyed since publishing Full Tilt Boogie — A journey into autism, fatherhood, and an epic test of man and beast is getting out and talking to folks about the book, and about the autism epidemic, living with autism and parenting, burros and pack-burro racing. Believe it or not, there is a parallel.FTBcover200

I keep these things fairly low-key and informal, and seem to settle into a comfort zone by the time we get to the question-and-answer period, which I think is the most interesting part of my discussion. Frankly, I’m more concerned about what people want to know than what I have to say.

Recently I had the pleasure to talk to a fairly large audience at the Scottish Rites Foundation Dinner in Pueblo. What was really cool about this was having the chance to thank members of the organization for the assistance they provide children who might not otherwise receive important speech therapy services from The Children’s Hospital. My son Harrison received two of these speech scholarships at a time when it was critical in his development, and also when we could not have afforded those services.

More upcoming talks include:

  • Greenhorn Valley Library at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 8.
  • Pueblo West Library at 7 p.m. Monday April 13.
  • Westcliffe Library Book Club, 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 27.

If you’d like to host one of my talks contact me at I’m good for groups of five to 100 in book shops, libraries, art galleries, luncheons, or wherever anyone wants to hear my story. Will do my best to promote it as well.


December 15, 2014


‘Full Tilt Boogie’ available as ebook

October 26, 2014

FTBcover2 copy

My new book, Full Tilt Boogie — A journey into autism, fatherhood, and an epic test of man and beast is now available as an ebook directly from me. This ebook is a PDF that can be read on most tablets or your computer.

Full Tilt Boogie is a story of endurance and perseverance in the face of adversity, and is filled with parallels and metaphors for life. The book is organized as a series of vignettes that weave together to tell the story of how I set out at the age of 53 with a jenny donkey named Full Tilt Boogie to win a seventh World Championship in one of the planet’s most obscure and difficult endurance sports, while also struggling with the challenges of raising my autistic son Harrison, financial hardships, and aging.

To get a copy simply email your email address to me at The book is “pay what you want” — there is a button on the copyright page and on the back cover directing you to an online payment form that takes Paypal or credit cards.

The ebook is also being published by Vook, and will soon be available on all major epublishing channels — Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Nobel and others.

Print copies of Full Tilt Boogie will be available from me in the near future, and several signing events are in the works. Stay tuned for details.

This is an exciting time to be a writer, with so many ways to get your work out there, and also to get paid for it. I thank my readers for being a part of this journey.

“Inspiring, thoughtful, humorous, pensive, honest…a must-read for parents, athletes, ranchers, farmers, animal lovers. Without question, four hooves up!” Nancy H., Colorado Springs

“In two evenings I’ve experienced more than every human emotion; loved this book , what a great job you’ve done. God bless you all.” — Chuck L., Westcliffe

Wedding ride

June 16, 2009













My friends Kevin and Emily were married in a Western-style ceremony on Bear Basin Ranch Saturday, so a few of us decided to ride on over to the event, which was about 2 miles by trail from my house. Pictured here are my neighbor Patti on her mare Mia and myself on my jack Ace as we left for the wedding. It was the first time I’ve ever ridden to a wedding, and also the first time I’ve actually dressed up to ride anywhere. The animals were a real hit with many of the wedding-goers.

Quite a few people visit this site looking for information about saddle donkeys and many are looking for animals for sale. In particular, my essay “Riding out the saddle donkey phenomonen” is one of the top-visited items on Hardscrabble Times. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have regarding these critters, their training, where to buy one or equipment, pack-burro racing or my book “Pack-Burro Stories.” My e-mail is

And congratulations to Kevin and Emily.




Only your farrier knows for sure

June 10, 2009

I’m often asked if burros need shoes. The answer of course, is that it depends on so many things, including the animal’s foot health, training mileage and I think even the weather.hoofshoe

I had my farrier Caleb Oldendorf out today to look at feet on my burros. The first foot he picked up he set back down with a snicker. He was laughing because my burros show more wear on their feet than most of his clients’ horses.

There are many good arguments for keeping equines barefoot. Steel shoes may increase impact shock, decrease the natural action of the foot and frog, and nail holes weaken the hoof walls. For more on this see

The debate is not unlike the one currently going on over human running shoes.

I view shoes for my burros as a necessary evil. Since I’m training for a long-distance race (the World Championship Pack-Burro Race is 29 miles and the Leadville race is 22 miles) up and back down a rocky mountain pass, I tend to put some hard miles on these animals in training, and then expect a lot from them in the race.

There’s an old saying: No foot, no horse. It applies to burros as well.

I’ve run burros barefoot in several races, and have even won races with barefoot burros. But the results have been mixed. The compromise I’ve come to, and my farrier agrees, is to put shoes on the front feet only. Equines carry 60-65 percent of their weight on their front quarters, and also tend to get footsore on the front feet more often than the backs.

And so for now, that’s what Caleb did — just fronts. It’s cheaper that way too. You can shoe two burros for the price of one!

‘Wild Burro Tales’ in the works

March 18, 2009

519kg6y4jtl_sl160_aa115_Back in 1998 I put together a collection of 11 stories I had written about my pack-burro racing adventures and published it as a 106-page book that I called “Pack-Burro Stories.” It wasn’t exactly Ken Kesey’s “Last Go Round,” which was a fictional account of the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up rodeo based on real-life characters and events, but my little book did serve to introduce a number of people to pack-burro racing, some of the characters involved, and burros in general.

Over the years I’ve been surprised at the continued interest in “Pack-Burro Stories.” From time to time people still contact me looking for a copy. As the number of these books dwindle to about 50, I’m putting together a new collection of burro essays that will be published under the title “Wild Burro Tales” in the spirit of the old Ben Green books. What I’m planning to do is keep the original 11 essays from “Pack-Burro Stories” and add several more that I’ve collected over the last nine years. I’m also arranging some new artwork to help make the book more interesting.

When the book is out, hopefully in the next couple months, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, check out “Last Go Round,” and any of the Ben Green books such as “Horse Tradin’,” “The Village Horse Doctor,” “Wild Cow Tales,” and “A Thousand Miles of Mustangin’.” All these books are great reading for those who love animals and the West.

And if you want one of the last few copies of “Pack-Burro Stories” get in touch with me at

Striking a chord

January 12, 2009

I’ve been truly stunned by the number of visits to Hardscrabble Times since writing this past week of my impending layoff from The Pueblo Chieftain. Apparently this has struck a chord with folks as 2.6 million people, a fair number of them journalists, lost their jobs in the past year.

I probably have the world record for quitting the Chieftain, having left on my own at least four times. So it’s somewhat ironic that I would also be the first person laid off. But the decision was based on seniority and I didn’t have any because it starts over when you quit and come back.

I intend to finish my final two weeks with the dignity of hard work and set an example for others who will surely follow me out the door. But I also want to have a little fun with it too.

Burros on the Web

A number of people also have come to the site looking for more information on burros and burro training, as well as equipment. Look for more information on this subject in the near future as well as a longer essay on the saddle donkey phenomenon that recently appeared in Colorado Central magazine. In the meantime, here are a couple of great burro links that everyone should check out:

The art of packing firewood on burros

A whimsical riff on the bookmobile

Saddling donkeys for riding

October 23, 2008
Redbo in a Steve Edwards Trail Rider Light saddle. Note the breast collar goes with the saddle but the britchin' is not Steve's design.

Redbo in a Steve Edwards saddle.

A favorite old rancher once told me: “It’s better to get where you’re going on a slow horse than to go to the hospital on a fast horse.” Frankly, I won’t ride anything with ears that short.

When I first started riding my donkeys it was purely bareback. Back then I didn’t really ride often enough to make buying a saddle worthwhile. Over time, however, I became more interested in my donks as riding animals.

Thus began my great saddle search. First was an old McClellan infantry saddle that I found in the corner of a local saddle shop and had jury-rigged to make it easier and quicker to saddle my animals. In many ways, this was one of the best choices I made. It was light and fit the donkeys well, but it was hard as a rock and not very comfortable for me.

I went through a series of other saddles, all of which I bought, rode for a while, and then sold when I found them to be less than ideal. These included an Australian saddle, a treeless saddle, and a synthetic Western horse saddle.

My most recent saddle has been a Steve Edwards Trail Rider Lite, and this saddle has by far been the best. Steve designed this saddle around mule bars that he also developed. I like the way it fits my animals and also the way it fits me. It’s light at just 18 pounds. The breast collar rigging is unique and does not fall down around the donkey’s chest. I’m sure Steve’s Britchin’ is nice too but I’m still saving my pennies to completely outfit my rig.

‘Chasing Tail’ at Independence Film Fest

September 26, 2008
Videographer Viviana Madronero-Rivero and Buena Vista filmmaker Curtis Imrie on the set of 'Chasing Tail.'

Videographer Viviana Madronero-Rivero and Buena Vista filmmaker Curtis Imrie on the set of 'Chasing Tail.'

Among a few short films to be screened today and tomorrow at the Independence Film Festival in Pueblo is “Chasing Tail,” a 7-minute “trailer” for a long-form documentary by filmmaker and pack-burro racer Curtis Imrie. The film stands out as the only film made in the Arkansas Valley region, and features not only Imrie but other area residents as well.

I’ve known Imrie well enough to have watched this film being made over the past three decades. It contains footage from his early adulthood, on through to this past year, when a donkey he owns, Mordecai, was selcted as the mascot for the Democratic National Convention in Denver. It was this latest chapter that struck the imagination of videographer Viviana Madronero-Rivero of Gato Productions, who helped him sort through an ice chest full of footage about his life.

“Curtis spent literally years of his life collecting video to eventually make a film that could vividly demonstrate the evolution of a human life, from the early years and the youthful mistakes all of us make, to the choices along the way that seem mundane at the time, but end up defining who we are long-term,” Viviana says.

“To many people, racing donkeys in remote mountain towns might seem like a joke. In the context of a human life, it is the direct antithesis of an average American life with a house in the suburbs, 2.5 kids and an all-consuming career aimed at financial and material acquisition. But for people like Curtis, it is a way of life that provides joy, clarity and happiness,” Viviana says.

For those unable to attend the 7 p.m. today or 2:30 Saturday screenings in Pueblo click here.

A push comes to a shove

September 10, 2008

We keep a small herd of Angus-composite beef cattle on a 640-acre

We keep a small herd of Angus-composite beef cattle on a 640-acre “school section” lease here in the Wet Mountains. These cattle are raised to very high standards using no antibiotics or growth hormones. They live on high-altitude grass and forage, mountain spring water, natural sea salt and minerals and nothing else. They are not fed grain and not kept in close confinement. This year we are in the position to offer some of these cattle for sale. We have animals available for pasture-harvesting by the local meat shop, as well as certified calves and cows and heifers bred to our certified Angus bull. Contact me through the comments on this blog for more information.

In recent years I’ve been playing with using my large-breed “saddle” donkeys to help me with the cattle, convinced they can do some types of work just as well as a horse. For the most part we’ve done pretty well.

Recently two of our heifers got through the fence onto Bear Basin Ranch so today I saddled Laredo and went over there to move these two strays back where they belong. I opened the gate on the upper end of our pasture, then rode around until I located the heifers, one solid red and the other solid black. They were downhill from the gate and against the fenceline. I figured between Laredo and my dog Sam it would be a cinch to keep them pinned against the fence and drive them uphill to the gate. The only problem was, these heifers wouldn’t budge.

Laredo actually bumped both of them and they would hardly move. Finally I drove Laredo harder toward the black heifer. We were both surprised when she turned, lowered her head and drove it into Laredo’s shoulder. There was a feeling of being off-balance, then he spun out of it and bolted downhill. I managed to get him under control in short order and avoided getting tossed.

We did eventually get the heifers moved back through the gate, but I have to admit the unexpected shove did get my attention. As I rode away the heifers were headed back toward the main herd.