Behind The Stall Door With: Millione

Feb 9, 2022 - 2:57 PM

Millione entered Jennifer Schrader-Williams’ sales program in 2014 as an 11-year-old who was going third level and showed a talent for piaffe. Then two years later, when his partnership with a new owner didn’t work out, “Mickey” returned to Williams to sell again.

“I remember trying to convince one of my U-25 girls that this is going to be such a great horse,” Schrader-Williams said. “And she was like, ‘Nooo, he’s too old.’ And as I was working him in his piaffe I thought, ‘I just have to have him. He’s just such a great boy.’ ” 

In 2016 she bought Mickey, a now 19-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Milan—Bakkely’s Roberta, Rawage Quintus), and started bringing him up the levels as a back-up for her Grand Prix horse. 

“It was one of the best things I could have done in my riding life,” she said.

Million Bentley
Jennifer Schrader-Williams with her Grand Prix partner Millione and their hacking companion, Bentley. Sue Weakley Photos

Two years later, she formed a syndicate, Millione Partners, with several supporters who helped the duo move into the international scene. Bob and Tina Desroche took over the partnership in 2018 to support Williams and Millione’s work to reach the highest levels of dressage.

The pair were members of the silver-medal winning U.S. team at the March 2021 Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida, and they were shortlisted for the Tokyo Olympic Team. They kicked off the 2022 Global Dressage Festival with wins in the CDI4* Grand Prix and the CDI4* Grand Prix freestyle during the first CDI of the year, Jan. 19-23. With no concrete plans to retire Mickey, they will continue on until he tells her otherwise.

Williams works with her long-time coach and mentor Christophe Theallet while at home in Washington state and Oded Shimoni and Debbie McDonald while in Florida for the winter show season.

Millione slider
“Mickey” is 19 but hasn’t indicated he’s ready to retire any time soon.

Want to know more about the he’s-so-fine-he-blows-your-mind Mickey? Read on:

• He has to have a BFF, but he’s mercurial when choosing his friend of the day.

“He’s a very kind, friendly, lovable guy; he’s pretty happy about everything, but his one requirement is that he has his friend,” Schrader-Williams said with a laugh. Mickey is fickle with friendships. “That can change depending on just whom he trailers with, when it comes to his best friend.”

His best barn buddy is Joppe K, a chestnut 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Joppe Partners. European travel buddies for the past two years, Joppe and Mickey went to Aachen, Germany, and Grote-Brogel, Belgium, in 2021. 

Millione graze
Any time is a good time for eating your greens.

The U.S. Dressage Olympic Shortlist Mandatory Observation Event, held in Wellington in June 2021, was the first time Schrader-Williams took him to a show by himself. “Because of the EHV that was happening in Europe, he could not have a horse anywhere in the vicinity of him within one or two stalls, and that was difficult,” she said.

• He knows a job well done deserves a cookie—a Mrs. Pasture’s cookie.

“He always knows when he has done a good job,” she said. “After we ride, he gives me that side eye and looks for his cookie. He’s highly motivated by treats, and he loves being told he’s wonderful, which he’s told often.”

• He’s into power walking, especially with his puppy pal Bentley.

Millionestall
Mickey and Bentley share a love of long walks and cookies.

He loves to hack out with Schrader-Williams’ not-quite-15-month-old Australian Shepherd, Bentley. 

“On our hack days, I take him out with my dog, and Bentley just tears around him at top speed,” Schrader-Williams shared. ”They love each other, and it’s pretty cute.”

Hacks are a high priority for Mickey; when he has them, everything is right in his world. “He’s eager, and he loves power walks. He loves to just see the sights. He doesn’t get worried, and he doesn’t get over-excited about it,” said Schrader-Williams.

• He’s an overachiever in the ring.

Schrader-Williams said she has to monitor this tendency, especially in the warm-up arena before competition. “The more he’s gotten to know the Grand Prix test, the more calm he’s gotten,” she said. “I don’t have to drill him. So, I just walk him through those tests the morning of the competition. And then he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I got this’ with no physical stress. I just let him know what’s happening that day mentally. I keep his warm-up pretty short and to the point and just really preserve everything I can for him and his body, but I keep him happy and fresh in his mind.”

Mickey performs the traditionally difficult moves in the Grand Prix with ease, but his rider works with him on suppling, relaxing and waiting. “When we have that, then all the other stuff remains in place,” she said.

The horse is comfortable in a variety of venues, but he especially loves the atmosphere during the Global Dressage Festival’s Friday Night Stars when he performs his freestyle created by Karen Robinson before a packed crowd.

“I joke that he’s my Danish Viking, which is why we did Viking music,” Schrader-Williams said. “He’s just such a hardy horse.”

• Retirement may be in the cards, but 19-year-old Mickey is not ready to show his hand.

His rider said she’s going to see how things go and how he feels and where he wants to take it. “He’s doing great for 19; he’s feeling and doing the best he’s ever done. And, you know, he does travel very well, and he is honestly really easy. We have the routine down, and it’s no problem,” she said.

He works four days a week with two days off and a hacking day. When he’s at home in Washington he lives in a paddock with a run-in shed, nibbles grass all day and enjoys the Pacific Northwest lifestyle. 

Millione face
Millione is a horse who likes to stay active, so even when he does retire, Schrader-Williams expects him to continue having a job to keep him busy and moving.

Even when Mickey does retire, Schrader-Williams expects to keep him active. 

“He’ll stay moving and being ridden, and maybe, maybe he’ll be shown in the lower levels,” she said. “I don’t know. We’ll see. It depends on what Bob and Tina want to do. Tina is very good with this kind of horse, so she could easily ride him. I think he’s got many, many years left, but we’ll focus on just keeping him happy and having fun. He is a horse that wants to be doing stuff. He doesn’t want to be left behind. He and I feel like, ‘You use it or you lose it.’ He’s just a one in a million guy, and he’s pretty happy about everything.”

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