U.S. show jumper Andy Kocher tried unsuccessfully to convince a Fédération Equestre Internationale Tribunal that a device shown in his hand in scores of photos was a standard clicker for clicker-training horses rather than the trigger for electrified spurs.
His defense, plus other details about the case that led to his recent 10-year suspension by the FEI, became public when the Tribunal released its full reasoned decision on June 10. The Tribunal in April had released a shorter “operative decision,” which found Kocher in violation of horse abuse, breach of the FEI Code of Conduct, competition manipulation and incorrect behavior, and outlined his fines and suspension but did not include details of the case. Kocher was given 21 days to appeal the decision.
Kocher, the reasoned decision shows, maintained throughout the proceedings that he did not own or use electric spurs. He said the device seen in his hand was used for positive-reinforcement clicker training, and that what appeared to be an electric wire running up his sleeve actually was a tether he attached to the clicker so that he wouldn’t drop it.
He presented no witnesses nor physical evidence to back up his assertions. However, none of the five witnesses that testified against him ever saw him with a clicker or heard him talk about clicker-training methods, but all saw him at various times with a box-and-wire contraption used to electrify his spurs.
Kocher also argued that if he had been using such a device it “defied logic that FEI officials did not discover the use of such electric devices or electrical tape over a significant period of time, when he had taken place in over 1,200 FEI competitions.”
Out of “more than 1,000” photos submitted, the FEI’s Equestrian Community Integrity Unit examined 81 from eight international and various national competitions and identified a trigger button in 73 of them. (In several photos, a cable running up Kocher’s arm—which he later argued was a leash for a handheld clicker—was visible).
The Tribunal also considered several videos, including one that showed the electric device and how it was used, and another showing a pair of old boots that allegedly belonged to Kocher and were kept by one of the witnesses when he replaced them. They “showed small holes visible on the inside of the Boots where the cables would allegedly run through, and the position of the holes matched the place where the spurs would need to be positioned,” according to the Tribunal’s written decision.
The Tribunal also heard testimony from the five witnesses. Their names were not included in the final report for fear of retaliation.
Source The Chronicle of the Horse