Growing Up With Horses

George Williams

Born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1955, George is the youngest of nine children. Everyone in the Williams family rode. It was part of the family’s everyday life. “My parents' friends joked that I was conceived on a horse,” George said. Each child initially rode Mitzi, the family’s Shetland pony, and George began his show career with her at age five or six when he won his first trophy in a lead line class at the Dublin, New Hampshire Horse Show.

To this day, that trophy sits on his dresser. New horses and ponies arrived on a regular basis at the Williams’ farm – “Nine kids meant we had to have numerous horses,” noted George, adding that at 13, he finally acquired a horse he didn’t have to share – a Thoroughbred/Connemara mare named Vini Vidi Vici.

George’s mother, Mary Hotchkiss Williams, was a dressage rider, and in 1963 she founded the Monadnock Pony Club with two other dynamic women. “This was the beginning of a very active era for Pony Clubs in New England,” recalls George. “Upper Valley, Penobscott and Glastonbury were just some of the more prominent Pony Clubs that would later have a tremendous influence on riding today. Some of their better-known former members include Bea DeGrazia, Lendon Gray and Kathy Connelly.”

Joining the Pony Club at eight years old, George received training in dressage from Hans Kreis. “As a pioneer of dressage in the US, Hans Kreis had his work cut out for him. His English was not the best and what I remember most vividly is always being in tears by the end of the lesson. But ultimately what I came away with was a reverence for dressage and a respect for the importance of perfection.”

The Williams family also skied. “My father was as passionate about skiing as my mother was about riding,” George says. George was 13 when his fathr, Sydney Williams, died. “Who knows? If my father had outlived my mother perhaps I would be a professional skier instead! He loved and respected nature. He believed in self-reliance, and the importance of the individual. My father also believed in the importance of perseverance. However, when I think of stoicism, I think of my mother. My mother continued to ride dressage actively until her death at the age of 79. I'm not sure from which parent I learned my stubbornness. Frequently when I get into difficult situations, I think of how I can handle it in a manner that would make my father proud.”

Early Trainers, Meeting a Mentor