Sunday, Apr. 14, 2024

Kocher Takes Two At January Jazz II

This Alabama-based trainer swept the professional divisions with ease in Folsom, La.

“He acts like a little pony and looks like a pony… I call him a pony on steroids,” Andrew Kocher quipped about Elizabeth Allen’s Finding Neverland, the champion in the green hunter division at the January Jazz II in Folsom, La., Jan. 23-27.
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This Alabama-based trainer swept the professional divisions with ease in Folsom, La.

“He acts like a little pony and looks like a pony… I call him a pony on steroids,” Andrew Kocher quipped about Elizabeth Allen’s Finding Neverland, the champion in the green hunter division at the January Jazz II in Folsom, La., Jan. 23-27.

The 8-year-old Oldenburg is notorious for tearing up blankets in Kocher’s barn, and he can be “a pain in the butt.” But in the ring, Finding Neverland is all business.

“He’s the best hunter we’ve ever had,” Kocher said. “He’s a really impressive jumper; he’s got a nice attitude, and is very quiet.”

Kocher began riding the gelding last fall, and Finding Neverland moved easily into the into the second year green division this season at Chateau Elan (Ga.) in December, where he claimed the championship tricolor both weeks.

Allen, Tuscaloosa, Ala., shows in the small junior division and has been riding with Kocher for the past six months. “I really like riding with him because he talks a lot and he teaches me so much,” Allen said. “It also helps that he rides my horse so he can really point out what I need to fix and how to ride him.”

Allen purchased Finding Neverland, or “Tao,” through Ken and Emily Smith of Ashland Farm. “He’s absolutely no preparation; he’s really slow and lazy,” she said. The pair collected ribbons in the small junior division as well.

Allen also competes in the children’s jumper division with her new horse, Pink Floyd. “This was actually my first show doing the jumpers with him, and it went well,” she said.

In addition to riding Tao, Kocher also performed double duty and piloted Meghan Looney’s Caruso to the regular working championship. Winning four of the five classes was an easy feat for Caruso as Kocher noted, “Caruso has a huge stride and a lot of range, so he basically steps over the four feet.”

Jarman Dominates Pony Ring

Aleece Jarman kept herself busy in the pony hunters, dominating almost all of the divisions at January Jazz II. She rode her own Rico Suavé and Copyright to the Championship and reserve championship in the small ponies, respectively. With America, she claimed the children’s pony tricolor and also won the same title in the medium division with Playwright.

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In the green pony division, Jarman gave catchriding a try and snapped up the tricolor honors with Short Story, owned by Aubrey Hill Farm, and Stir It Up, owned by Isabella Meyer.

“She really has a natural talent and feel for ponies,” said her mother, Karen Newman.
Jarman trains with Newman’s husband, Michael Newman, based out of their farm in Pace, Fla.

Jarman rides at least four ponies every day but had done little catch riding until this show. She’ll continue to ride sale ponies at her farm and plans to show in Gulfport, Miss., in the upcoming weeks.

Riding since she was 4 years old, Jarman is now 11 and has no plans to move up to horses anytime soon. “My favorite part about riding ponies is training the babies,” she said.

Looney, who graduated from the University of Alabama, showed the Swedish Warmblood in the adult amateur division while in college. Now with a new job in New York, N.Y., Looney has given Kocher the ride fulltime.

“[Caruso] is actually the reason I’m down here in Alabama now. I began riding him, and I just kind of moved to where he was,” Kocher said.

Kocher worked for Dave Pellegrini in Memphis, Tenn., but now operates out of Westminster Farm in Tuscaloosa, Ala., owned by Ashley Morrison. “It doesn’t hurt that I date the owner of the barn either,” he joked.

As for future plans, Kocher has high hopes for Caruso and plans to remain busy on the show circuit. “I’m going to keep showing him in the regular workings, and we’re all going to do Gulfport [Miss.] for six weeks,” he said. “I want to take him to Devon [Pa.], and I want to go to indoors this year.”

Sisters Tori and Aly Efird had reason to celebrate from the weekend—each was champion in her respective division. Tori rode her Zagalo to the championship in the small junior hunter division, while Aly claimed the children’s hunter tricolor aboard Cooper.

Tori, 16, purchased Zagalo in Florida last year to move up to the small junior division. The flashy chestnut poses a challenge for Tori, however, because of his impressive jumping style. “He’s an incredible horse, but I’m learning to hang on. I just hit my nose recently!” she said with a laugh.

Tori won two of her over fences classes for the championship and couldn’t have been more pleased. “I just started doing the small juniors, and he’s not the easiest horse to ride, so this was really exciting,” she said.
She’ll split her time now between Zagalo, a Hanoverian gelding, and her new large junior, Ramazotti.

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“We’re going to do four weeks of Gulfport, and hopefully I’ll qualify for Devon. That’s my favorite show; I went for the first time last year with Cooper,” she said.

Younger sister Aly, 12, made the daunting move from small ponies to a horse with no problem, thanks to riding Cooper. The 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood was Tori’s original small junior mount, and Aly hopes to follow in her sister’s footsteps.

“This was my first time this week to show in the children’s. I’ve only been showing my pony before this,” she said. With three blue ribbons over fences, Aly and Cooper were nearly unbeatable in their
division.

Aly’s small pony, Smokey Hill Daphne, is now for sale so she may concentrate on horses. “I don’t think I’ll do ponies anymore, just hack them for people if they need it,” she added. “I like how it feels being up high, and I like jumping bigger jumps. Finding the distances and learning a horse’s stride is really different, but Cooper is very consistent and dependable.

 “I’m hoping to move up to the juniors this coming fall, and maybe get my own junior horse, but I’ll have to ask my mom,” she said with a laugh.

Both sisters have been riding with Mark Tompkins for three years and describe him as a trainer who is “good at explaining everything and really funny.” Even though the family has moved to Memphis, Tenn., they continue to use Tompkins when needed.

“We ride with Jason Shnelle of Autumn Chase Farm [Collierville, Tenn.] now, but Mark helped us at all the shows in Folsom,” Tori explained.

Mother Gayla Efird is supportive of her daughters but insists they keep a balance. “They go to school and keep their grades up to earn this privilege,” she said. “They work hard to be able to ride.”

Tori and Aly wouldn’t have it any other way. “We don’t do much else; we ride every day but Monday. That’s all I want to do,” Tori said.

Gayla added, “Tori began riding seven years ago—I had no idea it would turn into this!”

Beth Johnson

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