Kate Poulin is the ultimate dressage horse trainer and coach. At Kate Poulin Dressage, she strives to make sure her students and their horses achieve a bond built on trust and good faith. “For me, it’s very important that my relationships with my clients are like a good marriage,” she said. One student, Carol Love, has known Poulin since she was a toddler and Love was a student of Poulin’s parents, Michael and Sharon Poulin. “Carol owns Relentless Love, an 8-year-old Hanoverian gelding I have had in training for four years,” Poulin said. “That horse has lots of meaning between my family and me. Relentless Love’s grandfather is Watch Me, the horse my father trained and competed.” Poulin took over the ride on the horse after the owner’s back surgery and she is the horse’s sole rider.
“I love riding Relly because we have a special bond and he loves to work for me,” she said. “He also challenges me as a trainer. Relly isn’t straightforward, so I have to be very creative with him when it comes to training. Carol has put a lot of trust in me to train and care for him and she watches me train on a regular basis. When we were in Florida, Carol watched my lessons daily. It is so nice to have someone who wants to be a part of the process. When I went back to Ohio, Carol acted as my eyes on the ground because, after months of watching me train in Florida, she knew what to look for in each horse.”
Love said Poulin looks at the big picture when training her horse. “She is careful to lay the proper groundwork, and she has such an attention to detail,” Love said. “It’s all about the welfare of the animal. She has a good eye and a very good knowledge base. She’s able to see the end goal and she knows what it takes to get there.”
Another long-time client is Liz Ritz from Cleveland, Ohio, who has been with Poulin for 10 years and has her Friesian mare, Natasha B, in training with her. Ritz has a long background in classical dressage, having gone abroad and worked as a working student and a groom there, and she agrees that Poulin sticks to the tenets of dressage.
“The core foundation of everything she does sticks to the principles of classical training,” Ritz said. “And yet, there is a creativity in that she never approaches any horse exactly the same. She looks at every horse as an individual. Every horse I have seen in the barn has had an unbelievable transformation.”
Ritz said that Poulin welcomes horses of any breed and delights in making each horse better, no matter the breed
“They all become terrific horses,” she said, adding that Poulin enriches the lives of every horse and every rider at the barn. “I love Kate for her intensity and her passion, and I also love that she makes it fun! I value Kate not only as a trainer, but I also value her friendship.”
Poulin is equally as enthusiastic about her friend. “She is someone I could call at one o’clock in the morning and say ‘Hey, I need help,’” Poulin said, adding that Ritz supports her not only as a friend, but as a client and makes certain that her horse attends clinics and takes lessons with Poulin’s parents, with Kate as the rider.
“Liz has been so generous in so many aspects of my life,” Poulin said. “She has trusted me to put her horse in full training and has trusted the process. It takes a long time to build relationships like that and it’s fantastic. We are looking for her second horse now. She has faith that I will be able to find the right partner for her.”
Renee Miller came to Poulin four years ago with an Arabian to train and she was happy to help. The horse died unexpectedly, and while Miller dealt with her loss, she leased one of Poulin’s Friesians. She has now purchased her own horse, Valiente, and delights in watching Poulin show her horse.
“The No. 1 thing about Kate that I appreciate as an instructor and as a trainer for my horse, is she doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach,” Miller said. “She tailors the way she teaches to each of us. She reads us to understand what things work for us and what things don’t. She takes the time to know and understand our horses and then combines the two things together. At the same time, she stays dedicated to the discipline of dressage and she’s very serious about maintaining the integrity of dressage. She never, ever compromises that.”
Miller works for Schneider’s, the horse supply company, and because of the relationship between trainer and rider, Poulin tests many of Schneider’s products for them, from boots to saddle pads to spot cleaners for gray horses.
Kelly Grant is Poulin’s most long-term student, and she’s been with her for 11 years. She helps the trainer in her business matters like marketing and advertising. She’s also the only person who rides Poulin’s horse, Belisario Interagro (also known as Rio), when Poulin is out of town. Grant owns a Dutch Warmblood Poulin found for her, and together they are working their way up the ranks, having won Training Level at the regional level and placing third at the national level.
“Kelly is a very thoughtful and sensitive rider,” Poulin said. “So she and Rio are a good fit. Kelly was also the only person who rode Brilliant Too (Zuel) when I would go out of town. One of the things I love about Kelly is how kind and thoughtful she is with her horses. Of course, she is also a beautiful rider and a dedicated student. She was 2014 Region 2 AA Training level champion and Third at Nationals at Training level AA. She also has her USDF Bronze and Silver medals and has two scores toward her Gold.”
Grant, who has a 6-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Easton, said she likes how Poulin breaks things down into simple pieces and makes them easy to understand. “You progress because of that,” she said. “It’s very simple. She gives great analogies.”
Grant also said that Poulin works with her to achieve her goals. “I have three boys and she works around my schedule.”
Poulin said it’s important for all of her students to succeed. “It brings me a lot of joy to see them reach their goals,” she explained. “Whether it’s showing for the first time or getting their Bronze Medal, I support them.”
With 20 horses in some sort of training, Poulin is busy. “Every year, I think I’m going to slow down but I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “I’m very passionate. I love riding. I love teaching and I love horses. Every horse in my barn gives me joy.”
As far as accepting horses and riders into her program, Poulin in neither breed blind or level blind. “The only thing for me is that you have to be a positive person,” she said. “I want to be surrounded by positive people who are good people and who want to learn.”
Poulin is highly organized and plans out her schedule a year in advance. She asks her students what they would like to accomplish and they form a plan. Although she divides her time between Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter, she has a plan for that as well.
“I don’t go to Florida and leave my clients high and dry,” she said. “I come back at least once a month or more to teach them and everyone has a goal to work on. Sometimes I will buddy up some of my students so that they can rely on another rider to help them with their horses.”
“As a trainer it’s important to me to know each riders’ goals and how important they are to that person,” she said. “Whether it’s showing for the first time or aspirations of going to National Championships, every goal or dream is important and special. I do have a very upfront and direct teaching style and that flows into how I communicate with my students off their horses. I always want to be upfront and honest. I am also very hands on with the horses’ care and management. My students find comfort in that, knowing I am available whenever they need them for even the smallest concern.”