If you have ever visited La Crépe in the Silo, you may have noticed a picture taped up by the register, featuring a chestnut horse and the man who is most likely taking your order, Michel Bloch.
It looks like a pretty photo of Bloch out for a ride on a sunny day, but that picture was actually taken somewhere along the 100-mile course of the 2009 Tevis Cup. Yes, the same man asking if you would like whipped cream with your crepe is actually a world-renowned endurance rider.
Endurance riding is one of the most physically challenging horse sports in existence. It requires both horse and rider to have courage, drive and an insane amount of fitness. Endurance rides are essentially races over rugged terrain ranging from 25 to 100 miles long.
Bloch was born in France and he started riding when he was 19 after a man from the Lipizzaner School of Riding moved to his town and opened a riding academy.
He started working as a photographer and in 1972 he was sent to the United States with the assignment of photographing American families.
When he returned to France he moved to Paris and he lived there for four years.
“I always wanted to move back to the United States,” Bloch said. “But I was not sure what I would do there. I started thinking and one day I thought, ‘Crepes – I will make crepes.'”
In 1976 Bloch packed his bags and moved to America. He built a trailer and traveled across the country selling crepes at county fairs. Four years later he decided to settle in somewhere and open a restaurant.
He opened the Crepe Bistro, Davis’ first crepery, in 1980 and ran the restaurant for 18 years.
“I like it much better here [the Silo] because I have my weekends, I don’t have to work evenings, summers are easy and I have my holidays to ride,” Bloch said.
Throughout all the moving around and change, Bloch never lost his love for riding. In 2002, as the school year was coming to an end and business at his crepe stand was slowing down for the summer, Bloch lost his horse to colic.
He wanted another horse, but he was restricted by his low summer income. However, his need to be frugal was actually a blessing in disguise.
Bloch checked the livestock ads in the Sacramento Bee and found a listing for an Arabian gelding priced at $1000.
“I had my doubts, but I went to look anyways. When I got there I liked him so I said, ‘OK, I’ll buy him.'”
That gelding was a 13-year-old chestnut named Monsieur Joseph, whom Bloch now affectionately refers to as “Jojo.”
Bloch and Jojo have been a team for nine years now and have raced thousands of miles together. They have also made sure that Bloch’s $1000 were well spent, racking up accomplishments all over the world. They have entered the 100-mile Tevis Cup six times and completed on four attempts. In 2004 they won the 50-mile Gold Country Endurance Ride, the 100-mile middleweight National Championship and they took second in the Tevis Cup.
The Tevis Cup is a 100-mile, 24-hour race held in Tahoe and it is considered the Kentucky Derby of the endurance world. Just completing the Tevis is a feat within itself and Bloch has managed it four out of six times on a tiny, older horse.
“[Jojo] is a bit small. People always joke if he was any smaller my feet would drag on the ground, but he is tough and very smart. I always let him pace himself in races. He’ll rest when he wants and when he’s ready he will pick up the pace again.”
Jojo is 24 now and he and Bloch entered the 2011 Tevis in Tahoe on Oct. 8. They were six miles from finishing when Bloch had to withdraw due to severe back pain. While he was disappointed in the result he does not think it is Jojo’s last go-round.
Bloch said Jojo is considered old now, but he was in excellent condition for the whole race. Bloch is tempted to retire him and start working with his next endurance prospect, Scarlet Ladd, who also happens to be Jojo’s nephew.
“I don’t know. Jojo’s so lively and he’s in such good shape. I never push my horses, but I think he could handle another shot at the Tevis,” Bloch said.
Whether Jojo races again or not remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – Bloch will never regret checking the classifieds of the Sac Bee that summer.
Bloch hopes to start a club or team for endurance riders at UC Davis. The school has a host of other equestrian teams on campus, including the current West-Coast Champion Dressage Team.
“I think there are plenty of people and students who are interested in endurance and even if someone just wanted to try it out, there are horses we can use,” Bloch said.
Bloch encourages anyone interested in endurance or plain-old horse chat to come talk to him at his crepe stand in the Silo.
“I love talking horses, it is my passion,” Bloch said.
KIM CARR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.