Andy Kocher has responded to the Fédération Equestre Internationale’s open investigation into accusations that he used electric spurs in competitions. The claims, made by an unnamed source, were first raised on the website Grandprix.info.
“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,” Kocher told the Chronicle on July 1. “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.”
In multiple photos on Grandprix.info, Kocher, 37, appears to be holding a device in his right hand with a button. Chronicle staff members discovered similar images in their photo archives.
The source provided Grandprix.info with a video, which has since been forwarded to the Chronicle, that depicts how the device works: The hand-held button connects to a wire that runs up the rider’s shirt sleeve, down his back to a box, which provides a charge, and then the wires continue down the rider’s breeches and out through holes in his boots to the spurs.
The FEI, which announced an investigation of Kocher last week, released an updated statement regarding the accusations.
“The FEI Legal Department formally notified the US athlete Andy Kocher on June 29, 2020, that an investigation has been opened following allegations of him using electric spurs reported to the Equestrian Community Integrity Unit,” an FEI spokesperson said in a statement. “The athlete has been offered the opportunity to respond to the allegations. The FEI absolutely condemns any form of horse abuse, and specifically legislates against the use of any electrical device with a live electric current on a horse.
“The FEI General Regulations state that subjecting a horse to any kind of electric shock device is considered as horse abuse,” the spokesperson continued. “Article 142 of the GRs state: No person may abuse a Horse during an Event or at any other time. ‘Abuse’ means an action or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or unnecessary discomfort to a Horse, including, but not limited to: (ii) To subject a Horse to any kind of electric shock device; The FEI has the right to open a disciplinary case against a person or persons for any alleged breach of the FEI Rules and Regulations and/or any of the offenses listed in Article 164.12, including horse abuse. Sanctions for horse abuse range from a three-month suspension and a CHF 1,000 fine to suspension for life and a CHF 15,000 fine. We understand that in some quarters there may be a perception that things are going too slowly, but the judicial process is something that cannot be hurried, as due process—including the right to be heard—has to be upheld. The FEI is thoroughly investigating these allegations and will always prosecute a case to the fullest extent possible provided sufficient irrefutable evidence is forthcoming.”
The U.S. Equestrian Federation has also launched its own investigation.