On July 16, Moab resident Christoph Schork won the Haggin Cup at the Tevis Cup ride, a prestigious and rugged one-day horse race through 100 miles of California canyons and mountainsides.
The Tevis Cup, also called the Western States Trail Ride, is the oldest modern-day equine endurance race and has been held annually since 1955.
“It is really quite extreme,” says Schork, explaining that a horse can lose 80 to 100 pounds during one race. “Horses are built to run and flee from danger. Without a good rider, they can run themselves to death.”
The race doesn’t simply judge the speed at which competitors can finish the course, but also tests the rider’s skill and the care they show their mounts. To receive a coveted completion award belt buckle, competitors must ride from Tahoe to Auburn in under 24 hours and have their horses deemed healthy and able to ride further.
This year, Schork crossed the Tevis finish line second along with his horse, Blizzard of Oz. After veterinarians looked at the top-ten finisher horses, they judged ‘Ozzy’ to be in superior physical condition and awarded Schork the James Ben Ali Haggin Cup in recognition of his “horsemanship and sportsmanship.”
Rather than race a horse to high speeds, endurance racers focus on managing and caring for their horse’s health. Along the way, the pair can develop a deep connection.
“Caring goes both ways,” says Schork. “Sometimes the horse learns to care for the rider as well, to wait for the rider and know their needs.”
Schork grew up in Germany, which has a deep and historic horse culture.
“I was the odd one out in my family,” he says, taking to horses early on and learning dressage and farrier skills. That led to his discovery of equine endurance racing and a 30-plus-year love affair with the sport.
Schork moved to his Moab ranch 20 years ago and opened the Global Endurance Training Center, where he trains both professional riders from around the world and local teenagers like Tesni Maughan on how to listen closely to their horses.
At his ranch this past Sunday, Schork was caring for and feeding a dozen horses, along with his student, Tesni, and her mother, Jenn Jones. Eight of the horses compete in races and four are older, experienced horses. Schork clearly has a fondness for the well-tried, mature horses.
“Like humans, they get older and racing is too hard on their bodies,” he says. “But they are knowledgeable and wonderful for training.”
In October 2020, the American Endurance Ride Conference recognized him as the “Four Hundred Win Man,” with more than double the recorded first-place finishes of anyone else in the sport.
Still, he’s ready to slow down, which in his case means going from competing in an incredible 50 races a year to around 30 and focusing more on training riders.
“I love both racing and training. So much of this style of riding is in skills and learning. That has to be passed on,” Schork says, with the enthusiasm of someone talking about their favorite subject.
Tesni heads to the ranch multiple days a week to learn more about endurance racing. She’s completed four courses this year, in addition to barrel racing.
“They’re both very different but so fun,” she says. “In barrel racing, you just try to get your horse going as fast as you can, but endurance is way more about taking care of the horse and making sure they are ok and focusing on finishing the race. It’s awesome.”
“I want to go to Tevis next year and help crew and get the experience,” she says. “Then eventually I want to ride it—not next year or the year after that, and probably not the year after that—but eventually I’m going to do it.”
Like her mentor, Tesni talks about the competitions with pleasure and excitement. When asked if she ever gets bored on long rides, the idea is clearly shocking to her. Schork’s focus on thoughtful detail, care for the horses and his deep enthusiasm have all clearly made an impression.