Early Trainers, Meeting a Mentor

George Williams

From the ages of eight to 18, George worked with a number of top trainers – Hans Kreis, Alan Eldon, Peg Shortledge, Anne Ticehurst, Dr. van Schaik, Marshall Gray, Kathy Connelly, Albrecht Stecken, Michael Poulin and Tom Poulin. His mother encouraged his equestrian career and when George was 18, she arranged for him to train with Egon von Neindorff (pictured) in Germany.

That time was a formative part of George’s career. “Von Neindorff had a tremendous love for the horse,” George recalls. “I will never forget him saying that a danger of doing well in competition is that it can give you a false sense of being a good horseman. It was at Neindorff's that I was first thoroughly introduced to the German training scale and the importance of the shoulder-in. It was in Germany during that time that George took the oral and riding tests in German to earn the Bronze Rider award. These medallions, which include also Silver and Gold, are given in the German training system.

George returned to the U.S. in 1973, and for the next eight years, he rode and trained on the East Coast. His first job was a six-month stint as a working student for Major Hector Carmona in Baptistown, New Jersey. Carmona was known for his ability to train anything – even mules in the Chilean Army – and he instilled in George the belief that every horse could be improved regardless of talent. It is because of this belief that throughout his life, George has never given up on a horse and has achieved success with horses that others never could.

Upon the suggestion of von Neindorff, George contacted Karl Mikolka, who was then working in Massachusetts. In 1975, when George purchased his Prix St. Georges horse, Fleury, he began working with Mikolka at Friar's Gate Farm in Pembroke, Massachusetts. George followed Mikolka as a working student to Sis and William Steinkraus's stable on Great Island, Connecticut.

Mikolka coached George on a 17.2 hand gray Trakehner mare named Rahel, who was one of the first Warmbloods imported to the US. With Rahel, George recorded one of his highest dressage competition scores – 85 percent at Training Level. Rahel was the AHSA Horse of the Year at First Level with George in 1979 and USDF Second Level Horse of the Year in 1980.

During this period, the USET also became aware of George's talent when he rode in an observation clinic in 1977 with Bengt Ljungquist at Gladstone. Four years later he was invited to ride in USET clinics with Melle van Brugen. By 1980, George was back in New Hampshire riding and teaching, and Mikolka was in Wadsworth, Illinois, at Tempel Farms. Six months after starting at Tempel, Mikolka asked George to join him there in the position of sales rider. George accepted and in 1981 he moved to Illinois.

The Tempel Farms Years