“I was out of control at that point.”
Andrew Kocher’s ride in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Del Mar in California was not your typical show jumping round. Aboard the ever enthusiastic (read: STRONG) Navalo de Poheton, the American rider made two “ridiculous” inside turns and added a couple of extra strides to the final combination in order to manufacture a clear as the wheels started to come off his controls.
And that was just the first round!
“The same thing happened to me on that horse at Thunderbird [Show Park]. The same thing happened in Sacramento [last week]. It was oxer–vertical coming home and I mowed it down. So I was thinking that the only option I have here is to scare the hell out of him and chip it and hope he made the back bar. And he did!” laughed Kocher.
It’s a technique that was inspired by retired show jumper Terry Rudd and suggested by Kocher’s father.
“Terry had a horse named Gazpacho. She would take any possible inside turn around the course that you can so you can to keep the horse on a slow, short stride and kind of keep him in check. I was doing that the last two classes until the last line and then he would get loose and knock one down late,” explained Kocher.
“So, I made two kind of ridiculous inside turns and kind of shocked him and it worked for me today!”
Returning last, Kocher’s plan for the jump off was equally unusual—he was aiming to go slower.
“I’ve lost I don’t know how many classes going too fast, so I thought I’m going to take it easy [from fences] one, two, three, four. I mean, I didn’t go slow, but I didn’t let him out. Then [it was] hope that he misses the purple jump [a tall vertical at fence five] because I didn’t know if he’d be too aggressive by then,” said Kocher.
“The brakes were really hot coming back on the double—he starting going left, right, adding strides. I just wanted to get over A and once I made it out, I thought I’d be home.”
Crossing the finish line, Kocher glanced to the clock, convinced they didn’t have the time.
“I looked up at the [score] board and thought I was going to be second and I would have been very happy to be second—believe me, I would have been thrilled. But it was me this time! I was first!” he laughed.
And euphoric fist pump–knee slap ensued, prompting 16-year-old grey gelding to take off. It’d be two laps around the ring before an elated Kocher regained control.
With just four tenths of a second separating first from third, the Longines FEI World Cup Del Mar was the closest competition in the North American League yet!
Pace setters Chris Pratt (CAN) and Concorde stopped the clock at 37.75 seconds, only to have France’s Eric Navet shave nearly two tenths off their time (37.56 seconds) some five horse and rider combinations later. Kocher immediately followed, squeaking ahead by just nine hundredths of a second—37.45 seconds—to emerge victorious!
Kocher now leads the Eastern sub-league rankings of the North American League.
Up next for the 34-year-old rider is a 30-hour drive to Calgary to contest the next week’s World Cup Qualifier at the Royal West Jumping Tournament. Because horse showing is nothing if not glamorous road trips behind the wheel of semi-trailer.
Watch them compete on HorseNetwork.com/live!
Good luck, Andy!