UPDATE 7/01: Kocher has responded to the allegations with the following: “I can confirm that I received a notification from the FEI yesterday that someone has asked the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit to investigate allegations of horse abuse against me. I was devastated to receive this letter from the FEI. I know who has brought these allegations against me, and sadly that person is improperly using these important horse welfare protections to gain an advantage over me in a private dispute. I love my horses and would never do anything to sacrifice their welfare. However, I will participate in the FEI process and defend against these allegations, so that the real story behind them ultimately emerges.”
FEI competition is tightly managed, in more ways than one. Even from a paperwork standpoint, horses must have a passport. They must remain on the showgrounds while at the event. They also are carefully watched by stewards who look out for horse welfare. Not to mention, competition itself is tight, as horses and riders jump enormous fences for equally enormous amounts of prize money.
With that in mind, we held on to this piece for a few days before bringing it to our readers’ attention, in the event that additional supporting or contradicting evidence surfaced. International US rider Andy Kocher has been suspected of using electric shock spurs during FEI competition.
Photo by Sportfot.
An article on the leading European news website, GRANDPRIX, was published on June 26. It detailed that a whistle blower contacted GRANDPRIX with the allegations and sent a video that explained how the electric shock spurs operated. The rider holds a push button device in the palm of the hand, which is attached to a wire system hidden under the jacket and pants, connecting to the spurs. When the device is activated, a shock is administered to the horse’s flanks, which inevitably would cause an unwilling animal to jump, or add extra height to an already athletic horse’s flight.
Professional photos were sent to GRANDPRIX from Spruce Meadows 2018, and Horse Sport additionally uncovered similar photos from the 2019 Royal Horse Show.
Photo by Sportfot.
GRANDPRIX called Andy Kocher to question the spurs. Kocher was taken aback and responded that the allegations may be from someone trying to sabotage him, as he does support many horse welfare organizations, breeds horses, and has been involved with them all his life. However, he has come under fire before for riding an exhausted Carollo in the Sun Life Financial Derby in July 2019, which was investigated by the FEI — hence more doubt in the FEI and other members of the public’s eye.
The USEF and FEI have confirmed that they are aware of the spur allegations and are in contact with each other about it. They have begun looking into the matter.
Photos via GRANDPRIX.
It is sad to see that the possibility of a shock spur system may exist, whether the allegations are true or not, as this can be very damaging to a rider’s reputation — and if it’s true, the horse’s health and welfare. We hope to see the situation investigated and resolved quickly.