American jumper Andrew Kocher has been compromised again. Kocher, previously accused of animal-unfriendly behaviour, has used electric spurs to improve the performance of his horses. The American federation and the FEI have started an investigation.
Kocher is said to have sent electric shocks to the flanks of his horses during competitions via a virtually invisible system. The theory is that the rider hides a push button in the palm of his hand. That button connects electrical wires, which run through Kocher’s trousers, with the spurs on his boots.
Equestrian expert Jacob Melissen (NED) is flabbergasted; “I have never seen this before. I have been in contact with a number of Dutch top riders, such as Jeroen Dubbeldam. They say: if this would happen in the Netherlands, there would be a life-long suspension.”
By administering the shocks the horse feels forced to go forward or to jump over an obstacle. Kocher, 71st in the world rankings, strongly denies the accusations. He says he would never do such a thing, for the love of his horses.
Melissen: “In the pictures it indeed seems as if he has a button in his hand. And you can see a little cable going up the sleeve from his glove. A wire also seems to be visible on the riding breeches. But there are no pictures of the spurs themselves. And it is a pity that this whistleblower is only coming forward now. These are pictures from 2018 and 2019, so he should have done that much earlier.”
Last year the FEI also investigated the rider for alleged abuse off one of his horses. “After an intensive show weekend, with two rounds and a jump-off, he had the same horse start again a day later in a derby with a course of 5,000 meters and 25 obstacles. That went completely wrong. The fatigued horse made a lot of mistakes and it was a disgrace. But the FEI did nothing at all,” Melissen knows.
The question is whether the FEI will intervene now, if the false play can be proven. “At least they will have to check on it now. Just like they check the horse’s bit when a combination leaves the ring. But the FEI excels in not taking adequate measures. I do not expect them to do much about it.”
Photos by GRANDPRIX