At this year’s Washington International Horse Show, American rider Andy Kocher rode Uppie De Lis to a win in the feature $10,000 International Jumper CSI4* speed class.

The talented, 15-year-old, bay gelding (Andiamo x Landsieger)—purchased by BTS Entertainment & Sales to add to Andy’s string in 2014—has experienced a great deal of success. Originally owned by Annette and Werner Wurgler of Switzerland, the gelding was piloted for a short time by New Zealand’s Sharn Wordley before going to Andy.

Andy has been candid about his trust in Uppie de Lis, calling him the “most consistent horse” after their win in Washington in October. Watching the pair gallop around some of the largest tracks that the international scene has to offer, it’s clear why Andy, out of all the horses in his string, has so much faith in this particular mount.

We caught up with Andy to find out why he chooses to ride Uppie De Lis in a bit that is not often seen in grand prix show jumping: a loose ring snaffle.

NF Style: You ride Uppie De Lis in a loose-ring snaffle bit. Why?

Andy Kocher: I ride any horse I get in a loose-ring snaffle, a full-cheek snaffle, or as close to that as I can get—unless something comes up to the ring that isn’t from my stable and someone else is in charge of the tack. If it comes out of my stable, we start it in a loose ring snaffle first and go from there. Hopefully they can stay in that bit going forward.

Sharn Wordley had the horse before me, as well as a couple other riders in Europe, and I believe they rode him in a pelham bit there. But he has a great mouth. He’s 15 years old so he knows what he’s doing and how to do it.

When you’re riding in a soft bit like a loose ring, does it require anything different of the rider and their hands?

Well, there isn’t much bit. You know, if you’re a little off, if you pull too much, or get a little behind the motion, you never get in [the horse’s] way too much with a bit like that. A lot of people might use a hackamore or something of that sort. But I find it’s really difficult to turn in bits like that.

For me, less is more. And it doesn’t always work out that the horse is able to stay in that bit. Every horse is different and you may have to mess around a bit. I have a mare that goes in a double wire, another that goes in a hackamore with a snaffle combination, and another that goes in a Pelham. So I definitely mix it up.

But Uppie De Lis is just so easy and straightforward. He loves his normal bit.

So you flat, jump, show, and school in the same bit?

Yes, all the time. I keep it really easy. He hardly ever gets any training at home, honestly. We flat him around and then bring him to shows. He’s just a really good, solid, easy horse. He loads perfectly, clips perfectly.

I really wish I could say something like, “Oh, he’s terrible about this or that” but I can’t! He’s a little sticky at liverpools… which is funny because he’s probably jumped a million of them in his life. He always jumps them, he’s just a little sticky about it.

Honestly, if I can just stay out of his way, he’ll go clear every time. He has rails when I do something I shouldn’t be doing or when I’m over-thinking it. That’s why I show him in the big classes. He knows more than I do. He has probably done these kinds of classes more than I have. So he gives me a lot of confidence.

Photo by Shawn McMillen Photography via WIHS/Jump Media LLC