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GRANDPRIX reveals that Andrew Kocher is suspected of using electric spurs during FEI competitions

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Andrew Kocher. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The French website GRANDPRIX, which belongs to one of the leading equestrian media outlets in Europe, has revealed that American team rider Andrew Kocher yet again is centre of controversy. Kocher has allegedly been using electric spurs on his horses during FEI competitions. GRANDPRIX has documented the allegations towards Kocher with several in-competition photos where elements of what could be an electric device can be seen. GRANDPRIX also reports on receiving a video from a whistle-blower which details the electric device’s functions. On request from GRANDPRIX, the FEI replied: “The FEI is aware of these allegations and is looking into the matter. We are already in touch with the athlete’s National Federation.”

To GRANDPRIX, the US Equestrian Federation commented: “We are aware of the allegations surrounding the use of abusive equipment by Andy Kocher. USEF takes allegations of this nature very seriously and is firmly committed to protecting horse safety and welfare. We are in contact with the FEI and are supporting an investigation into these serious accusations.”

It's not the first time Andrew Kocher is subject to negative attention. Last year, after having won the 1.60m Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows with Carollo – a Grand Prix competition over two rounds with a jump-off, Kocher jumped the gelding again the next day in the Sun Life Financial Derby. The derby is by the organisers described to be a kilometre long with twice the number of obstacles of a traditional Grand Prix. Carollo – that appeared to be visibly tired both ahead of and during the derby – finished on 28 faults, and Kocher was heavily criticised for the management of the horse. At the time, the FEI stated that they were looking into the matter – but no official conclusion was published. 

With permission from GRANDPRIX, World of Showjumping publishes a translation of their article – which is written by Lucas Tracol and Yeelen Ravier. To read the original French article and to see the photos that are referred to in the text below, click here.

“On his website, Andrew Kocher is described as an athlete who has “used his riding talent, business savvy, and sheer will to climb the ranks to the highest levels of the sport of show jumping.” A few days ago, GRANDPRIX was contacted by an informant that condemned the use of a device that seriously conflicts with the welfare of the horses. Via the spurs, this system makes it possible to send electric shocks to the horses' flanks – through a remote control with a push button placed in the palm of the hand. Electricity would then go through wires hidden in the rider's pants, and come out at the end of the spurs. The pain would make the horse compelled to move forward. This could, for example, force an otherwise less willing horse to jump a fence.

The whistle-blower has sent GRANDPRIX a video explaining how the device is operated, claiming it electrifies the spurs. After learning about the suspicions concerning Andrew Kocher, the editorial staff looked up several pictures of the American rider and discovered him with elements of what could be similar to such a device, such as the push button systematically placed in his right hand, a cable at the wrist, as well as a thread under the pants. In these photographs, all dating from 2018, the American rider is pictured in the saddle of Flying Dachshund (ex. Fashion V) during CSIO5* Barcelona, ​​with Ciana in a 1.40m class at CSI5* Basel, with Kahlua in a 1.50m class at CSI3* Wellington, on Blaze of Glory II during a 1.45m class at CSI5* Calgary in June, and with Virginia WZ during the same weekend.

Reached by phone, Andrew Kocher immediately defended himself by talking about his career. “That does not sound good. I belong to three generations of horse men, I am also a breeder of horses and I have retired horses. I also do a lot of charity work for horses. I don’t like that but go ahead, I am interested in what you say.”

After being presented with the photos, the American rider cut the conversation short without an explanation. In writing, he again defended himself by highlighting his affection for horses. “I love my horses and take top care of them and if anyone says anything else I don’t really want to speak with them. My horses are my life. Do you understand where I am coming from?”

The American rider claims to be the victim of someone who wants to harm him due to a litigation process, believing that they would be willing to manipulate photos. All of the photos found by the editorial staff – which are supporting the thesis of the use of electric spurs by this rider – come from several fully trustworthy agencies. Invited several times to speak on the merits, namely about the elements that can be seen in the photos, the rider – who was already harshly criticized the day after his first CSI5* Grand Prix victory in Calgary because of the management of his horse – never delivered the slightest explanation.

As chairman of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC), French team rider Kevin Staut has agreed to react. “The IJRC’s position on all these subjects is crystal clear: We are positioning ourselves against any breach of the FEI rules, if the cases are proven. We work for respectful riding, and 99% of the riders who are members of this body will condemn any violence towards the horse. It is important to note that cases that go against animal welfare remain exceptions and that they damage the image of our sport. They are unforgivable and we have to fight so that this does not happen again.” 


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