US Team Rider Accused of Using Electric Spurs

Andy Kocher accused of using electric spurs

Who knew electric spurs — which deliver a zap to the horse when a rider pushes a button — were even something you could buy? A while back I posted about “electric jockeys” who use “buzzers” or “machines” to shock their mounts. Now, American show jumper Andy Kocher is accused of using shock spurs on several of his horses during competitions. The story is, quite literally, shocking — and the fact that so many people on websites and equestrian bulletin boards have shrugged, makes it apparent that this is neither new nor unusual.

The website published multiple photos of Kocher with what appears to be a device in his hand and a cord running into his sleeve and down his breeches.

The report first appeared on the French Showjumping website, In multiple photos in the article, Kocher, 37, appears to be holding a device in his right hand with a button. Photographers have since found similar articles in their archives. The article states that was contacted by a whistleblower who alleges that Kocher used the spurs on Fashion V during the $36,000 Welcome Speed Stake at the 2019 National Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park. In photos of the event, Kocher appears to be holding a device with a button.

The informant has also circulated a video that shows how the device works. The button is connected to a wire that runs up the sleeve of the rider’s shirt and then down his back to a box that provides a charge; the wire then runs down the pant legs and out through a hole in each boot to the spur. I have seen the video but am not able to link to it.

On, Kocher claims to be the victim of someone who has doctored photos to harm him. However, multiple photographers has stepped forward with pictures from different shows, which appear to contain a similar device.

This is not the first time that Kocher has been in trouble for his treatment of horses. July 2019, the day after he won the $500,000 ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows (Alberta) on Carollo. He made the controversial decision to ride the same horse in the “Reach for the Sun” Derby. The exhausted horse finished — barely — with 28 faults after being ridden hard around the course. What I’ve read is that Kocher has not been invited back to Spruce Meadows.

Kocher has also been disciplined twice for schooling his horses off site during major shows — an act that is not permitted (once you check-in for a Grand Prix, the horse must remain on the show grounds). It does make you wonder what kind of schooling he thought needed to be done in private.

I’m sickened by this peek under the tent of the upper echelons of show jumping, even I know I shouldn’t be. After all, this is the same discipline that produced Barney Ward and Paul Valliere, both of whom were convicted for insurance fraud after electrocuting horses in their care just because they were not performing up to snuff. And it’s the same team selection committee that appointed Devin Ryan to the US team, even though in 2015, he was suspended for six months and fined $6,000 for “marks” on five horses’ legs (reports that I’ve read suggest he put a caustic chemical under their boots to increase their sensitivity should they knock a fence.)

It’s time to clean up our sport and treat the remarkable athletes, who try their best for us, with the respect and care they deserve.

Update: The Chronicle of the Horse reported this on July 1.

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

“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.”

Chronicle of the Horse

6 thoughts on “US Team Rider Accused of Using Electric Spurs

  1. It puts me in mind of the old ranchers that when a youngster, or even a hand mistreated a horse, put the same treatment to the youngster or hand. Put a wet blanket, or didn’t smooth the blanket under the saddle? You got to carry the saddle all day on your back with the wet, wadded up blanket under it. You only did it once – or you never were let near an animal again.

  2. I am sick to death of cheaters. Damn it, and I try not to cuss on someone else’s website, but damn them. If they want to win at a sport they need to do it that doesn’t involve hurting their so called partner. IF they want to win they need to do it the old fashioned way..hard work, training, and most of all, ethics. Oh I have no doubt whatsoever that he blamed ‘photoshopping’. You have to be one hell of a good geek to photoshop Kocher’s hands, his clothes, THAT. There’s an entire genre on the internet called Photoshop Disasters to show you how difficult it is to photoshop a photo perfectly. Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be able to make his wire short circuit. It’s running through his britches? Oh man wouldn’t I have fun with THAT……

    Electric spurs. What next, an electrified saddle pad? Hot irons? a bit that zaps? Bastards.

    1. Unfortunately, I have seen a video of a barrel racer who obviously had an electrified saddle pad. She kept pressing a button and the horse kept bucking and refusing to go forward. I’ll find it again and post it. Very clear what was going on.

  3. Horrifying – they’re obviously NOT good enough riders to compete without torturing their horses. Why are they not banned for life from the sport – SHAME on the governing body for not kicking them out and imposing hefty fines!

    1. Yes, it makes me very angry when our sport’s governing bodies do not protect the horses. It also makes me angry when people continue to praise the people who abuse their horses and elevate them as “terrific” trainers and riders.

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