While the large majority of people who are involved with the equestrian sport are genuine horse-lovers and compete for their own personal enjoyment, the competitiveness running through the top ranks of the sport often sees unsavory behaviour. While this is never condoned, it does, unfortunately, happen.
One particular rider from the United States of America, Andrew Kocher, has received a 10-year suspension following several incidents in which he was found to be using electric spurs on his horses. The FEI Tribunal issued the suspension effective immediately and has subsequently disqualified him from 8 events that occurred between June 2018 and November 2019. The ban is set to remain until the 27th of October 2030. Alongside his suspension and disqualifications, the athlete has also been fined CHF 10,000 and has been ordered to pay a further CHF 7,500 for costs.
The FEI legal department notified the athlete on the 29th of June 2020 that an investigation had been opened following reports of said athlete using electric spurs. The allegations were reported to the independent Equestrian Community Integrity Unit (ECIU) after which Andrew Kocher was reported to have been using electric spurs on several of his FEI registered and national horses in both international and national events as well as during training.
Upon completion of the investigation, the FEI formally opened up disciplinary proceedings against the athlete in October of 2020 and Mr. Kocher was provisionally suspended on the 28th of October 2020 whilst pending a hearing before the FEI Tribunal. That temporary suspension is set to be credited against the athletes full suspension.
Whilst the suspension time-frame is active, Mr. Kocher will be barred from participating in any events organised by the FEI or any National Federation and will also be barred from attending any events, in any capacity, whether it be as a spectator, coach etc.
The unfathomable decision Mr. Kocher made to use electric spurs has not only caused great uproar in the equestrian community on a global scale but has also, thankfully, seen the FEI attend to this matter with the urgency and severity it has required.
While some riders tend to forget the reasons they started in the sport, the opportunity to ride and compete on horses is a privilege and no animal should ever have to endure abuse in any form due to the actions of a human. Cheating is never the answer to a long and successful career and as many top athletes from across the globe will tell you, the clue to success is a strong partnership between both horse and rider.