It was already broiling hot in California when 34-year-old Andrew Kocher set the timers afire with a blazing fast winning round in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar CSI3*-W in an unlikely triumph over French Olympian Eric Navet. The ultra charismatic and unpretentious Kocher is based out of Howell, New Jersey, and made the trip across the country hopscotching from Sacramento back to Tryon then to Del Mar in the hope of scoring World Cup qualifying points.
WH: How did you get started in riding?
AK: Both sides of my family all rode. My father is a horse trainer. My grandmother led me into it and my uncle was my first instructor. I wanted to play baseball, but had no talent for it. I rode at summer camp and on the weekends off and on. I did local shows and I got more serious at 13–14 years old, but didn’t really have a big junior career.
WH: To whom do you credit your indomitable spirit?
AK: My mother. We always had the necessities, but not much more. But my mother had us thinking we could do whatever we wanted and not to let anyone get it our way.
WH: I understand your grandmother, Gail Kocher, has a mobile tack store with a custom bit specialty. Is there an example of a horse that you have or have had where a special bit made a difference?
AK: I have a large trunk full of bits. I switch them almost daily trying to get that perfect feel. Never happens. I always feel some imperfection and look for something new. It would be best if I could just read a horse’s mind!
I use hackamores, pelhams, gags and variations but I try and use the softest mouth piece I can. I hate ports and sharp mouth pieces. I try to get in the horse’s head. How would I like a sharp mouth piece? I would not, so I never use them.
WH: Is there a specific piece of tack that’s made a difference?
AK: I love Poponcini bits! I also really like martingales. They are your best friend. Also Freejump stirrups because I don’t fall out of them and they break away. My biggest fear is being caught in the stirrup. I love the Butet saddles. They just suit me well. They are made of soft leather and are not too bulky.
WH: What are your goals for 2018?
AK: 2018?! I still have goals for 2017! Qualify for World Cup Finals, make top 75 in the world rankings, win a 4* or 5* grand prix, jump on a Nations Cup team, sell a horse for a million dollars or more, keep improving my young horses, etc. Myself and my partners have been buying lots of young horses lately. We are also breeding our own. I want to produce the next “big horse” right here in America. Europeans will be flying here to see them some day. I’m a dreamer and glad to be one!
WH: Please give us details about the horse that currently holds the most promise for you.
AK: My top competition horse currently is Navalo De Poheton, owned by MKO, which is myself and my two friends Bob and Robin Mulkey from Tulsa, Oklahoma. But I have a nice string behind him and coming up the ranks. I am able to pick and choose my classes with him because of the other horses behind him. I also have a special mare I won’t name yet but I believe everyone will know her soon.
WH: In the post-analysis you are quoted as saying that you channeled Terry Rudd and Gazpacho — will you elaborate?
AK: There was a really good rider named Terry Rudd and she had a horse named PS Gazpacho and my dad always talks about it. Last week he said, ‘I think you should ride Navalo De Poheton like Terry used to ride that horse. Go any possible inside turn around the course that you can so you can keep the horse on a slow, short stride and keep him in check.’ In the qualifier, I made two kind of ridiculous inside turns and shocked him, and it worked! So I took the theory from my dad and a little history from Terry Rudd!
WH: What advice would you give a young professional who is on the road a lot?
AK: Meet as many people as you can and just roll with it.
WH: What are your thoughts on competing in Europe versus the United States for an ambitious American rider?
AK: Hopefully our shows keep improving and we can stay and show in the U.S. For now it looks like you have to show a bit in Europe to make it to the top. I’ve been able to break the top 100 without ever leaving North America but it looks like you have to go to Europe to get to number one. I could be wrong about that but it’s what it looks like.
WH: What was the concept behind heading West for shows?
AK: I do sales so I need to meet new people to make the sales. Coming West is good for that. The World Cups on the West Coast are a little bit lighter competition-wise so you have a better shot to grab points and prize money out West currently. That could change with the addition of more FEI shows out West next year. I will be doing the Las Vegas show as well.
WH: What is your opinion on the current state of show jumping in the U.S.?
AK: Currently we look strong in show jumping. We have great riders. We just need to produce our own horses. Europeans want to sell us their nice horses but not their best ones. The best dealers — I would hope to be known as one someday — sell the best and ride the rest. Most people ride their best and sell the ones they think are not good enough. My advice is to buy from a guy who makes his living selling. He or she needs the income and will try and do you right. The ones that don’t need the money will sell you one they don’t want to compete themselves. Not good enough!
WH: What do you think of equitation as the foundation for jumper riders?
AK: I’ll be honest, I think no. I don’t like the division. I think kids should be out foxhunting and riding out in the open fields. Pony jumpers should be bigger and more popular. The main thing should be getting rid of the fear factor. The polish can come later.
Watch the split-screen video of Andy Kocher and Eric Navet’s rounds in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar CSI 3*-W. Video by Showjumping Life.
With a background in filmmaking, fashion, and art, Winter Hoffman brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. A lifelong horsewoman, she helped her daughter Zazou Hoffman (now a Professional) navigate her way to a successful Junior career that included 2009 ASPCA Maclay Equitation Championship at the National Horse Show.