Meet Michelle Coad

Michelle had her first horse-human interaction on a trail ride at Pike’s Peak in Colorado, at age 5.  Like most childhood experiences, there are few specifics about the ride that she recalls, but the sense of connection and community forged between her and her trail partner,“Ol’ Judge”, remains strong and at the core her equine relationships today. 

At 10, her family moved to central Maine, and she was fortunate to take up her dedicated riding education just as Michael and Thomas Poulin started their new “American School of Dressage.”  Although owning a horse was out of reach for Michelle’s family, she pursued every opportunity to learn and grow as a rider:  she was a committed student of Michael’s wife Sharon Poulin, a member of the local 4H club, exchanged babysitting for showing opportunities, and worked summers at Mike and Tom’s brother Bill Poulin’s Montsweag Bay Farm in Wiscasset, Maine.  The benefit of not owning a horse as a youth was the opportunity to take lessons and ride many different horses.  This broadened her skills from dressage to road hack and trail riding, jumping and vaulting. 

After college, Michelle continued to seek out equestrian educational experiences and bought her first horse, Docksider Dan, training him through 4th level dressage. Through the years, Michelle and Dan learned from some of Maine’s most prominent trainers, principally:

  • USDF Certified Instructor and FEI competitor Judy Westlake
  • USDF L judge and FEI competitor Christine Joost 
  • gymnastic, stadium and cross-country jumping with BHS-trained and international competitor Mary (Guenzel) O’Rourke 

 To further her equestrian education she has attended USDF National Symposiums, Olympic Selection Trials, Instructor Certification Workshops and USDF Judging programs.   From observing and listening to accomplished masters of classical dressage, Michelle is convinced that the refinement and subtlety of the aids are paramount to clear communication and the development of a sensitive and responsive partner.    A highlight of her equestrian experiences was meeting Dr. Reiner Klimke in Cologne, Germany, where she watched him school and compete young horses at a two-day M level show. 

In 1998, Michelle attended a USDF Instructor Workshop led by USDF Certified Instructor Gina Krueger of Garland Farms, Dahlonega, Georgia.  Impressed with Gina’s clear and specific communication, focus on the rider’s seat aids, the balanced development of the horse, and the harmonious partnership between the two, Michelle sought out visits to Garland Farms and participated in Gina’s Stay and Learn program at every opportunity.  In 2009, as she founded Downeast Dressage, Michelle had the opportunity to work and learn with Gina for several months.  Gina is a Downeast Dressage board member and regular guest clinician at Bagaduce View Farm.    With a commitment to improving the experience for both rider and horse, Michelle has defined the practice of Relationship Riding, which incorporates the value of the horse-human partnership in the riding experience.  This is the pinnacle of the art of dressage.  While it is perhaps intuited in the dressage training scale, it is rarely specifically taught.  Michelle’s goal is to assimilate this practice into every aspect of the interaction.