Wellington, Fla. – Dec. 13, 2022 – Decorated Grand Prix rider for the United States Jennifer Schrader-Williams has spent the better part of her competitive career atop one horse. Learning how to best communicate with her equine counterpart, training with some of the best coaches in the world, and attending prestigious competitions that helped her edge closer to her goals, she is no stranger to making sacrifices and paying her dues. When the time came for her once-in-a-lifetime horse, Millione, to make his final ride down centerline, it forced her to shift her focus to new dreams and new partnerships. Schrader-Williams now looks back on her career with “Mickey” with gratitude and love, while looking ahead to a new journey.
Honoring the Journey
Schrader-Williams and Millione, a 19-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Millione Partners LLC, have filled their barn with numerous ribbons since beginning their partnership in 2017. A highlight of their time together, the pair earned the USEF Grand Prix Dressage National Championship at the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions in August 2020.
“It meant so much for us to be able to keep growing and improving and have all of our hard work pay off,” she said. “We really came together as a pair and he began to trust me in the ring. He was always such a motivated horse, but at that show he really began to relax and follow my guidance. Since he was 17, I was already feeling so much gratitude for his health and longevity, and knew that every show was a gift.”
The following winter season, Schrader-Williams and Millione helped the United States earn a silver medal in the FEI Nations Cup Wellington CDIO3*. Continuing their success, they then traveled to compete in the FEI Nations Cup in Aachen, Germany, and won their first CDI blue ribbon in Europe. She remarked that making it to the awards ceremony for the Grand Prix Special in Aachen amongst so much top talent was the cherry on top of their experience that spring. At the end of the 2022 Global Dressage Festival season, where they topped the CDI4* Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle in Week 1 and took top placings in several other CDIs, they said farewell in Millione’s retirement ceremony to honor his unforgettable career.
“When he came into my life, I never thought we would be able to grow like we did together,” Schrader-Williams recalled. “Little by little, year after year, he allowed me to dream bigger and reach higher. He always came through for me, and I was blessed that he stayed healthy in his body and mind, as that is not always the case for so many of these top athletes. He gave me the courage to say my goals out loud and believe that it was safe to do so. He made me feel like things were possible — if I rode my best I knew he could be competitive and have consistent quality movements in the ring. He is a horse that always gave his best, and it instilled a lot of confidence in me to be more patient and precise in the movements, trusting that they would be there for me when it counted.
“I am extremely proud of how we wrapped things up in the ring,” she continued. “Of course it is always a difficult transition as he is the reason we came to Florida, and my life changed in so many positive ways. Riding under the lights on Friday night with my family and supportive owners in the stands was such a wonderful feeling. There is definitely a sense of loss when that ends, but to have him finish his season with scores in the top 8 of the short list for the World Equestrian Games and earning a personal best of 72.9% in the Grand Prix at 19 years-old was so amazing to me. Even more amazing was to have him finish up his season sound and happy. It meant the world to me.”
Schrader-Williams stressed the importance of having people in your corner who will support you no matter the challenges you face. “No one is successful on their own,” she said. “I have such a special team behind me in my family, owners, coaches, sponsors, support staff, and professionals helping to keep the horses at their peak, while remaining happy and healthy. I have immense gratitude for those that help us be our best.”
One Chapter Closes, Another Begins
With Millione now enjoying his retirement from international competition, Schrader-Williams has shifted her focus to the up-and-coming talent in her barn. Joppe K, an 8-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Joppe Partners LLC, has already exceeded her expectations in the ring, competing in his first international competition in Belgium last spring. At the time just 7 years-old, the gelding had only completed a few Intermediate I national level tests, but Schrader-Williams took the opportunity to bring him overseas with Millione and get exposure to a larger environment.
“I am someone who always goes for opportunities, even when sometimes I don’t feel ready. I would not have done half of the things in my career if I waited until they felt 100% perfect — They often never do. I have the mindset that you say yes to opportunities and then you work hard to rise to the challenge, improve yourself, and learn from your mistakes. Joppe handled the huge atmosphere like the pro that he is and we had such a great time. He certainly loves the limelight!”
This year, Schrader-Williams entered Joppe K in the qualifier for the Lovsta Future Challenge Final in March at the Global Dressage Festival, hoping to see how the gelding would stack up against other young talent. After completing several shows at the small tour level, she decided that the Lovsta Future Challenge Developing Grand Prix Final would be a natural step up for the gelding and a great opportunity to showcase his strengths in the piaffe/passage and one tempis. Taking the blue ribbon in the qualifier, he then went on to put in a mistake free test in the Final to earn 70.052% and the top placing.
“I was so proud that it all worked out and it was such a great experience for him,” she said. “I plan to improve his strength and continue to prepare for the International Grand Prix. He has the test confirmed and now just needs to keep building strength and having a good time in the work. My dream is to represent Team USA in more Nations Cups, and one day a Senior Championship. His first attempt at the Grand Prix was a score of 73%, and that feels like a good sign that we are headed in the right direction.”
Joppe K is not the only young talent Schrader-Williams is working to develop at home however. Over the last several years, she and her team have been working to build up a good string of young horses, with the goal to always have the next age group in development. “It is quite enjoyable to bring along the youngsters and have them be comfortable, understanding your system from the beginning. I take pride in developing the babies to be confident, honest partners that are proud of themselves in their work. Right now there are some really exciting ones coming up the pipeline.”
Working and Living in the World of Dressage
Consistently developing dressage talent does not come without its challenges. Schrader-Williams is always striving to maintain a good work and life balance for herself and her horses in order to keep the body and mind healthy. “I want the horses having fun and learning to have a good work ethic, but not feel like they’re ever being drilled. Hacking and light lunging days are just as important for them as learning new movements. I work them four days a week and hack or lunge on the fifth day.
“I have two young children that are my everything, and making time for my family is so important to me as well,” she explained. “I am in a place where keeping the joy in life is so important, not just wearing my body down and working myself to exhaustion. It comes through in the work I do with my horses.”
In order to help reach her goals for better work life balance while still pursuing her competitive dreams and running her business, Schrader-Williams decided to list her Washington state farm, Summervale Premier Dressage, for sale.. Spending her winters in Florida for the competition season, she hopes to still run her training business out of the Washington location in the summer months. Schrader-Williams purchased the facility with her friend and student, Paula Helm, ten years ago when previous owner Charlene Summers was ready to retire. She got her start in the industry with Summers 25 years ago at the farm, giving her the opportunity to groom, start young horses, learn to market and sell, and develop numerous horses up the levels.
“Summervale has been such a huge piece of my heart,” she said. “We have had so much fun pouring ourselves into developing it into what it is today. We have made it profitable and kept it improving year after year. Paula moved to North Carolina last year, and we decided it was a good time to make this change. It is a slice of heaven, 70 acres of paradise. It is my hope that whoever buys Summerale will love it as much as we have and continue to keep it thriving. It is also my hope that I am still able to run my training business there in the summer months when we come home from Florida.”
“Summervale currently sits full with over 38 horses boarded, two successful recognized shows, three schooling shows, and clinics with an internationally renowned clinician monthly,” Schrader-Williams said. “Partnering on top competition and sales horses has been such a wonderful adventure I have loved sharing with owners and clients. I’d love to continue finding creative ways to push forward in our sport that involves partnership. Journeys together can be so meaningful when more people are involved! I treasure the relationships I’ve developed over the years thanks to this sport and hold them close to my heart.”
To learn more about the Summervale Premier Dressage facility, please click here.