Get ready for the 4th annual Black Canyon Donkey Derby, held at Deep Canyon Ranch, in Black Canyon City, Arizona! The race will be Saturday, March 9th, but be sure to come for a full weekend of FUN (events listed below).
What is Burro Racing?
First, let's talk about what a burro is. “Burro” is the Spanish word for donkey.
“Pack burro racing is a sport in Colorado, Arizona, California, and New Mexico that is rooted in the various western state's mining histories. In the early days of the mining industry in Colorado, miners would take donkeys (burros in Spanish) through the mountains of Colorado while prospecting. Because the burros were carrying supplies, the miners could not ride the animals and so they would walk, leading the donkey. Burro races are held throughout small towns in Colorado, Arizona, California, and New Mexico to commemorate the miners and their burros. In 2012, pack burro racing was recognized as the official "summer heritage sport" in Colorado.
Legend holds that the races trace back to an incident in which two miners, finding gold at the same location simultaneously, raced each other to the claims office. Because the burros were too small or loaded to carry their owners, the miners were forced to run, leading the burros.” (Wikipedia)
During a burro race, a runner and a burro run/walk a prescribed course together, with the runner leading the burro on a lead rope. Depending on the event, pack saddles may be used and runner’s gear can be carried by the burro. At the Black Canyon Donkey Derby, there will be a 3-mile course, a 6-mile, or a 9-mile course. For beginners and people who just want to experience a donkey community, the 3-mile course is a great starting point. You can jog/walk and just get an overall feel for the sport. This is a fun and easy course! It is also a great opportunity to get your burro introduced to events and get you out on the trails together! What a great way to bond and exercise with your burro. For those of you who do not own a donkey, yet want to participate, burro racing donkeys can be rented for all levels of racing experience!! You can use burros who are better suited for walking and for those active trail runners, there are burros who enjoy racing competitively! Come join the fun!
All burros must be properly fitted with a halter and lead rope no longer than 15 feet. The lead rope must be attached to the halter at all times.
Control of Burro
Participants must maintain control of their burro through handling of the lead rope that is attached to the burro’s halter. All teams must keep to the designated trail, with no cutting switchbacks or leaving the trail with the exception of passing on single-track trails. When passing is needed, handlers and their burros are to stay as close to the edge of the trail as possible. Those teams who are slower and/or walking must try to move over and allow the faster runners to pass. Be aware of who is around you and use trail courtesy at all times. If a team interferes with another team, the “out of control” team may be disqualified or given a warning. If the handler drops the rope and loses control of their animal, once the animal is collected again, that team must go back to the point on the trail where they lost control in order to not be disqualified. It is encouraged to try and finish the race. We want everyone to be safe and have fun!
A jack/stud chain is a chain or strap that is used to apply pressure over the muzzle or under the chin. Jack/Stud chains may be used with a pressure/release technique to safely control a higher-spirited burro. Any team coming across the finish line with any injuries on the burro resulting from the jack/stud chain may be disqualified.
A team consists of one handler with one burro and must stay a team for the entire race. No swapping burros with other participants. Children 12 & under who wish to participate can have an adult helper who stays with them through the entire race (helpers are limited to the 3-mile course). There is NO riding of any burros. Handlers can lead or drive their burro, following behind the animal using a “driving” technique to keep their animal moving.
It is always wise to have a vet check prior to any big event. Sick or injured burros may not participate. Out-of-state burros will be required to obtain a negative Coggins test and health certificate before entering the state as required by state law.
Any handler mistreating their burro will be disqualified. No “tools” (needles, whips, prods, drugging, clubs, etc.) other than a lead rope will be allowed to be used. If a runner is disqualified, they can still finish the race and appeal his/her penalty to the race director. The decisions of the race director will be final.
Participant Waivers/Release of Liability
All participants, in any event being held during the 2024 Black Canyon Donkey Derby, participate at their own risk. No town, county, or private property owners along the course, sponsoring businesses, governmental agencies, persons, volunteers, race officials, or organizations will be liable in case of accident or injury to the runner or burro. Each runner must sign a waiver and/or release of responsibility before they race.
”Arizona, as well as many other states, have enacted legislation to protect those in the equine industry from liability if a participant suffers an injury or death from an inherent risk of an equine-related activity. Arizona’s Equine Limited Liability statute provides an equine owner is not liable for injury or death if: (1) the participant took control of the equine prior to injury or death; (2) if the participant or the parent or legal guardian of a minor participant signed a release before taking control of the equine; (3) if the owner or agent has properly installed suitable tack or the participant personally tacked the equine with tack provided by the owner or agent of the equine; or (4) the owner or agent assigns a suitable equine based on a reasonable interpretation of the participant’s representation of his or her skills, health and experience with and knowledge of equines. A.R.S. § 12-553(A).”
Here’s some additional information:
Renting a Burro:
We DO NOT rent burros through this page. You must have prior arrangements in place to have a donkey for your use if you want to participate. We have a couple of rescues who bring burros to the race, although, you need to make arrangements with those rescues ASAP. Forever Home Donkey Rescue in Benson, AZ is one suggestion, and the other is Oatman Donkey Rescue, in Oatman, AZ. If we find other groups who will have "rentals" we will post them here.
What to wear?
Comfortable running clothes, with layers. Our Arizona weather can change drastically so it is good to be prepared.
Trail shoes with good tread
Gloves (sports type, or fingerless weightlifting styles) to prevent rope burns
At least 1 quart of water
Food (energy bar or snacks)
Gaiters (to wear over shoes to help protect from cactus and keep the rocks/sand out)
Tweezer/comb (to remove cactus)
Hoof pick (in case burro gets a rock stuck along the way)
Handling Suggestions & Courtesies:
Here are some handling suggestions you may want to know so that you have a fun and successful race:
Study the course map before the race
Be aware that the fast runners, those who are the true competitive athletes start up at the very front near/on the starting line. The average-paced runners will then start in the “middle,” and then the slower runners/joggers/walkers AND children will start at the back of the pack. This allows people to safely spread out once the race begins, it allows the fast runners and burros to get ahead, and keeps the children, and slower racers safely out of the way. If this is your burro’s first time ever racing or being at an event where a group of burros are in close proximity, we ask that you to start at the back of the pack. Burro can get very excited about running in a herd and can be difficult to handle. They eventually learn to understand these events and the necessary pace of a race.
It is most commonly practiced that handlers are on the left side of their burro.
At the start of the race, it is advised to hold onto the rope but also near the nose of the halter to help keep your burro under control at the start of the race (when the starting gun goes off). If at any time on the trail, your burro becomes difficult to handle or is interfering with other teams passing you, you can get hold of your burro's halter close to the nose and circle them in towards you. If you can get their head around to you, you can oftentimes better control them until they calm down. “To control the nose is to control the burro.”
If you lose your burro, please yell out to others “LOOSE BURRO!” This is for the safety of all other teams as a loose burro can startle another. If you see a loose burro on the course and you can still maintain control of your own animal, it is a courtesy to catch the loose burro and tie it to a tree or stationary object (trail sign). It is all about safety!
When handling your lead rope, make sure the rope is not wound around your hand, neck, or tied to any part of your body. A bolting burro can lead to severe injury or death. Never do you want to be fully attached to your animal. If you were to trip and fall, once again, you never want to be attached to your burro. You can get dragged in situations like this. There are quick-release options that some expert racers have trained with; however, this is done at their own risk, and waivers were signed.
On tracks that are “in-and-out” please allow for the leaders to easily pass. Hang on to the nose of your halter to keep your burro from wanting to join them and turn around.
When going uphill, it is usually best to drive your animal from behind instead of dragging them uphill. When going downhill, especially for first-time burro racers, it is advised to go in front of your burro, waiving your arms out to the side if needed in order to keep your burro from passing you and taking off downhill too quickly. This is for not only the safety of your animal but for runners as well. We do not want you picking up too much speed and tripping on the downhill.
If you are using a packsaddle, it is important to check your cinch multiple times throughout the race, making sure your tack is comfortably snug and secure. Be aware of pack saddles and pads sliding. If you need to stop to make adjustments, please step off to the side to allow other teams to safely pass.
Once the race is over, please DO NOT BACKTRACK to cheer on your friends. We need to keep the course clear and safe for all participants.
If you DNF (Did Not Finish) and do not cross the finish line, please make sure to inform the race officials of your status (before leaving the race) so you are accounted for. We take a final count to be sure all racers made it in safely.
Camping & Schedule of Events:
Dry camping is available at the facility, Deep Canyon Ranch. No reservations are needed. Just show up and pick a spot! Please be sure to pay for your nights upon arrival with Jacie (pronounced Jackie) the ranch manager.
Camping fee is $10/spot
14 stalls are available for rent: $15/night if you clean your own stall, or $25/night if Deep Canyon Ranch cleans it.
Bring your own water buckets, water is available on the ranch.
Stalls are first come, first serve, so be sure to reserve a stall if needed.
Contact Jacie Greer for stall reservations 602-885-9369
You can also bring your own corral panels or hot wire and set up pens around your camp spot.
Bermuda and Alfalfa bales will be for sale if needed (Provided by Deep Canyon Ranch)
Schedule of Events:
Friday: All participants or anyone who wants to come be a part of the event for the full weekend is welcome to come and camp. Dinner on Friday night will be provided for the entire burro community who camps.
Saturday: Breakfast/Coffee/Lunch Food Truck available. Campers will order pizza together from a local pizza place for Saturday night’s dinner (or can pack your own dinner).
· 8:00-9:00am Race check-in
· 10:00am – 2:00pm Donkey Derby Race
· 4:00pm Costume Contest (St. Paddy’s Day Theme) $20 entry fee (winner's win cash) Sign-up will be at the event!
Sunday: Breakfast/Coffee Truck available
· 9:00am Obstacle Course Challenge $20 entry fee (winner's win cash). Sign-up will be at the event!
o Youth (12 & under)
o Novice (those who have never won at any burro event, or has never competed before. This is for beginner handlers and burros/donkey)
o Open (this is for advanced handlers who have won at other events)
Local Food Trucks:
Nora Jean Coffee and Twisted Jays
Bay Horse Braiding: Custom halters for all sizes and types of equine
“Freshies” car air fresheners
JS Horsewomanship: Equine Herbalist and Horsewoman
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