Two Giants of the Dressage World – Michael Poulin and Ravel

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Steffen Peters and Ravel at the 2009 World Cup (Bob Tarr photo)

Honoring Michael Poulin and Ravel (Part 2 of 2 Parts. To read Part 1 about Michael Poulin, click here)

By Kim Sodt

Reprinted from the December 2012/January 2013 USDF Connection magazine

Michael Poulin and Ravel need little introduction to the dressage community. Poulin’s multifaceted roles—rider, trainer, Olympian, instructor, and judge—have made him one of the most influential figures in the sport. With rider Steffen Peters, the KWPN gelding Ravel piaffed his way into our hearts and broke new ground for the US in the international arena.

These two American dressage greats will be inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame at December’s Salute Gala and Annual Awards Banquet at the 2012 Adequan/USDF Annual Convention in New Orleans. Let’s meet them here.

Ravel: “We Owe Him Everything”

In the fall of 2006, the KWPN stallion Ravel (Contango – Hautain, Democraat, bred by H. de Man) arrived in the US from Edward Gal’s stable in Harskamp, the Netherlands. Tim Coomans, Ravel’s owner, had just sold him to California-based dressage rider and sponsor Akiko Yamazaki and her husband, Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang.

With upcoming 2008 Olympic Games equestrian events scheduled to be held in Hong Kong, Yamazaki and Yang thought that it would be special to have a horse represent them, as they are both of Asian heritage. With that goal in mind they went horse-shopping with fellow Californian Steffen Peters, Yamazaki’s instructor, whom the couple had sponsored for more than a decade. A week before the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games, Peters rode Ravel several times and came away with a big smile. They’d found their horse.
Ravel’s life in America got off to a rough start. After having to cover two mares while in quarantine, he became “a fire-breathing dragon,” as Yamazaki put it. The owners and Peters decided to geld Ravel, and all was well until, a few months later, the horse sustained a serious injury to a front leg that some feared would be career-ending. After eight months off in 2007, Peters brought Ravel back to work slowly. The careful rehab and stem-cell therapy worked, and at the relatively young age of ten Ravel made the 2008 US Olympic dressage team, where he and Peters placed fourth individually.

At the 2009 World Cup

The following year, Ravel’s career kicked into high gear. The gelding made a clean sweep of both the Grand Prix and the GP Freestyle at the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas. A few months later, Ravel won every Grand Prix class at the famed CDIO Aachen, Germany, at which no US rider had won the Grand Prix in more than two decades. Peters became the first US citizen to be named Grand Prix champion of Aachen—the rider with the highest score in all three Grand Prix tests.

Ravel was the Adequan/USDF Grand Prix Horse of the Year for three years in a row (2009-2011). He was The Chronicle of the Horse’s 2009 Horse of the Year and the 2009 USEF Farnam/Platform Horse of the Year.

MAKING HISTORY: In one of their greatest performances, Ravel and Steffen Peters win individual bronze in the Grand Prix Special at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

In 2010, Ravel made history again by earning two individual bronze medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games; no US horse had ever won an individual medal in dressage at a world championships.

Ravel’s final competitive appearance was at the 2012 London Olympic Games, where he and Peters were the veterans and the team anchors. Strong performances unfortunately were not enough to put them in the medals, and Peters and Yamazaki announced during the Games that Ravel would be exiting the international arena.

“He owes us nothing,” Peters said in London. “We owe him everything.”

The USDF is honored to recognize Michael Poulin’s and Ravel’s extraordinary contributions to American dressage by inducting them into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame. s

Kim Sodt is the USDF staff liaison to the USDF Historical Recognition Committee, which oversees the Hall of Fame nomination process. Contact Kim at ksodt@usdf.org.

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