It is a real pleasure, this year, to be honoring two Olympians. One is a horseman and the other a horse. Even though their Olympic debuts were sixteen
years apart, they have a lot in common. Not only were their contributions to the sport in the U.S. outstanding, but each of them has had an impact on the
international scene as well. Both continue to inspire us, as they have shown what can be achieved through hard work, talent and generosity.
I was in high school when I first met Michael. He and his brother, Tom, were into a rider fitness and awareness program that a local ballet master had
started. It utilized dancing and ballet. It was quite an innovative program - especially for the time. Looking back, it should not have been a surprise
that Michael was involved. He has always been a true pioneer and innovator of American dressage.
Even then, when he was a young professional just starting out, his drive and commitment were obvious to me. You had the feeling that he was going to be a
force in the sport.
Michael was born in 1945 in Newport, RI where his father was a machinist in the shipyard. Feeling the children needed space, his father moved the family to
a farm in Fairfield, Maine. Not long after, when Michael was four, his father died of a heart attack - leaving behind a wife and eleven children. These
early years formed the life force of discipline and drive that has become synonymous with the name, Michael Poulin.
His own equestrian education started as a young man at the age of ten when Skipper Bartlett came "to advise them" at the request of Lucy, Michael's sister.
Michael later said: "Skipper motivated us tremendously to be disciplined, to be hard on ourselves. He always said the fault is in the human being, not in
the horse. The more he taught us, the better we got, and the more we wanted to learn." Skipper Bartlett sparked a fire, and Michael never looked back,
seeking knowledge here and abroad from others such as Franz Rochowansky, Col. Bengt Ljundquist, Herbert Rehbein, Gabrielle Grillo and many more.
Michael explained his approach to dressage as: "…some from the German system…a lot from the Spanish Riding School concepts…and a lot of Maine ingenuity."
It has been written: "For Michael Poulin, the key is discipline: the discipline necessary to perfect an art - in his case the art of dressage -." According
to Michael,"while talent in a student is highly desirable, talent is useless if it's not developed. The key is the attitude of the student. You can take
somebody who is not very coordinated, but has the motivation, and has a super attitude, and teach them to do a tremendous job."
Michael once said of his students: "They really have to do what you tell them, or it's not going to work."
Here is a sampling of students who did just that: Carol Lavell, Lendon Gray, Mary Howard, Pam Goodrich, Larry Poulin, Michael Barisone. His daughters Kate
and Gwen brought home Gold medals from 5 team outings at Young Riders. At the Pan Am Games in 2007 Kate followed in her father's footsteps by riding for
the US on an international team. Naturally, Mike was her coach.
Mind you, Michael has had his fair share of competitive success: He won the USET Intermediaire championships three years in a row from 1989 to 1991 on
three different horses. He won numerous USDF Horse of the Year awards, culminating in being named the 1990 Dressage Horseman of the Year by the Chronicle
of the Horse.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Michael found himself competing on the US bronze Medal team together with his long time student, Carol Lavell. Michael rode
Graf George, a horse that he had brought along as a young horse from the beginning to Grand Prix.
Off the horse and out of the arena, Michael not only pursued his judge's licenses, but he showed his pioneer spirit by working to improve dressage in this
country with a focus on education.
He was instrumental in the 1992 founding of the USDF Instructor Certification Program and, in 2001 he founded the North American Dressage Trainers Club.
Michael was the inspiration behind The Dressage Foundation's Olympic Dream Program.
Some of the greatest accolades come from Olympians, who, also happened to be students of his. I will share what Lendon Gray and Carol Lavell wrote to me
"A couple of things that made Mike so special for me personally:
1) He did the impossible -- he took me on in March of 1988 - a rider who had ridden one horse at the small tour level and had absolutely NO experience at
Grand Prix. By June, I tried out for the World Championship team and in July, I was competing at Aachen and Goodwood. We did daily lunge lessons at 6 AM in
the bitter cold, he taught me on Beppo, he let me watch him train and ask questions, and in the afternoons we analyzed movies of Grand Prix rides. He made
me believe I could do it - and helped me get there. His generosity was astounding.
2) He worked with any horse I brought to him -- the talented and the not so talented. He confirmed my belief that dressage is for any horse -- and any
horse is worth the effort to make it better. He was the only professional in the US who believed I should continue with Seldom Seen, the horse that gave me
more of a reputation than being on Olympic teams. I think the thing that made Michael happiest was doing what others said was impossible and he did it many
And from Carol Lavell:
"When I chose Michael Poulin to help me learn dressage, I selected the person who was doing it all: he could train and compete all breeds and types of
horses, and he could teach - ( REALLY teach, like rider Lendon Gray, who was winning all the dressage tests I should have won!). It was no surprise that
coach and pupil rode on the same Olympic medal winning team. To this day, in all questions concerning horses, I still turn to Mike; he has always done
what's best for the horse. "
Michael and his wife, Sharon, ran the family farm, Hillside Farm, from 1975-1983. They then started winter migrations to Florida and continued to return to
Maine for the summers until 2001. They currently operate the Dressage Center Inc, in DeLeon Springs, FL.
As you know, Michael, I grew up in New Hampshire, where we jokingly referred to our neighbors to the East as - Maniacs - despite the permanent relocation
to Florida, you are still a true "Maniac" - resilient, stoic, resourceful and disciplined.
In the other sense of the word, Michael could actually be a "Maniac". He loves motorcycles, race cars and his Cessna airplane. I still have an
image of him staring up at the sky at the Young Riders Championships in Illinois when General Jack Burton was flying overhead in an experimental aircraft.
Mike was the only one looking straight up watching that plane, while everyone else was watching the horses.
Of course, all of this would probably be a different story if had not been for the strong support of Sharon, Michael's wife of 42 years and the mother of
his four children. Sharon has her own achievements and successes: she an "S" level judge and a successful Grand Prix competitor but in her family, as Carol
Lavell so aptly put it: "she is the glue that keeps it together. Mike is a lucky guy and he knows it."
I'm delighted that Michael's family is here tonight - his wife Sharon, along with their son Michael and daughters Shannon, Kate, and Gwenn.
Michael, you once said: "Someone has to take a stand somewhere. The horse can't do it." We are now asking you to take a stand, as it is my pleasure, on
behalf of USDF, to induct you into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame.