Wellington, Fla.—June 10
When she first visited the dressage mecca of Wellington, Florida, four years ago as a spectator, Jennifer Schrader-Williams was inspired to come back one day. Little did she know that, in a few short years, she’d be competing here as a member of the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team shortlist in the observation event.
Last year, she was the USEF National Grand Prix Dressage champion, and this year she finished her second Florida season with her 18-year-old partner Millione, a Danish Warmblood gelding (Milan—Bakkely’s Roberta, Rawage Quintus) that she co-owns along with Millione Partners LLC. The pair made their U.S. team debut in the CDIO3* Dressage Nations Cup in Wellington, earning a team silver medal and a personal best score.
Schrader-Williams had a smile on her face all last night during the U.S. Dressage Olympic Shortlist Mandatory Observation Event, where she scored a 70.84 percent on her Grand Prix test.
“I am so grateful,” she said. “Last year with COVID, we made the makeshift shortlist, and I thought we were probably going to retire him at the end of the year, and he just kept getting better, so to be able to have him another year and not only have a good season, but also make it here and have him go in there and compete well is just a dream come true. He’s fulfilling so many dreams for me, and I’m just incredibly proud of him.”
After this year’s Florida season, Millione got some downtime at Schrader-Williams’ Summervale Premier Dressage in Roy, Washington.
“He’s older, and he knows his job at this point,” she said, adding that he got a week off at the end of the season before returning to work on his paces with a focus on fun. “Really that’s my goal with him—he’s got to be able to have a good time. The piaffe and passage and all the collected movements are fun for him, and the throughness, the half-halts, the patience and making him wait in the halt are the little things we can work on every day without a lot of pressure or stress.”
Schrader-Williams, 41, has had “Mickey” since 2015 when he was going fourth level.
“I fell in love with him. He came in as a sales horse, and it was the second time he’d come in for sale, and I couldn’t let him go,” she said.
She was able to travel to Florida for her first season in 2020 thanks to The Dressage Foundation’s $10,000 Debbie McDonald Training Grant for Pacific Northwest Riders FEI Riders. Now, she owns a home in Florida and plans to spend her winters there with her family.
“That’s always been our goal—to go out with Mickey and give me this experience in this atmosphere,” she said. “He’s such a good boy in this kind of venue. He’s a hot little guy, but he loves crowds.”
Schrader-Williams had the best cheering squad at the mandatory event as her husband, Alex Williams, daughter Lexi Williams and son LJ Williams were waiting for her on the sidelines.
“Lexi’s really passionate about animals, and to have her out there making signs and cheering for me is so fulfilling,” she said. “If I come in her room at 5, I’ve got to at least offer that she can come [to the barn], and she’s out of bed and dressed in three seconds and ready to go. It is a school night, but she’s going to stay up and hang out with mom!”
While Lexi has a pony at home, she’s gotten into ballroom dancing with her mom while in Wellington.
It started as a date-night idea between Schrader-Williams and her husband, but when he couldn’t make it last minute, she invited friend and longtime client Paula Helm to join her. Eventually Lexi picked it up, too, and joined them for dancing lessons.
Schrader-Williams has enjoyed the similarities between ballroom dancing and dressage, like learning rhythm and fostering a connection with your partner to anticipate their next move.
“It actually really complements the riding,” she said. “It’s taken the place of my workout. I was running three miles every morning; now I’m just dancing two hours in the afternoon.”
In addition to Mickey, Schrader-Williams has two talented up-and-comers—Joppe K, who she’s competing in the FEI 7-year-old classes, and new Grand Prix horse, 13-year-old Sueno Hit.