Being more Jessica (von Bredow-Werndl)
Written by Louise Parkes
With two Olympic and three European gold medals all collected over the last eight months, Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB look hot favourites to take the FEI Dressage World Cup title when the 2021/2022 Final gets underway on home ground in Leipzig (GER) in just over two weeks’ time.
While driving her lorry full of horses home from CDI*** in Ornago (ITA) yesterday where she steered the ever-improving 13-year-old gelding Ferdinand BB to win both the Grand Prix and Freestyle and where her student-rider, Raphael Netz, won three U25 competitions, she talked about the path that has taken her to where she is now in her career, and her future plans. But when it comes to predicting results she won’t be drawn. She doesn’t take anything for granted.
“Of course you have to have a clear vision and you must set your goals, but over the last 20 years there were times when I didn’t believe in myself anymore. However I always tried to push myself and I held on to my dreams and hoped the opportunities would come”, says the 36-year-old based at Aubenhausen in southern Germany who holds the No. 1 spot in the Dressage World Rankings.
Key to success
Jessica says that the key to her success was the decision “to stop trying to be someone else”. By the age of 19 she had already earned six gold and two silver medals at European Championships, but it all went wrong in her early 20s. “I had some difficult years with hardly any success and I struggled a lot. I had been Junior and Young Rider champion many times so I dreamed of it at Senior level. But for more than five years it didn’t happen”, she says.
It was a light-bulb moment during which she decided to just “be more Jessica” that turned everything around.
“I stopped trying to imitate other riders and began to focus on doing things my own way – the way I always loved to do it, going back to being the little girl who loved to play with her horses. The horses began to enjoy it more and I don’t ever want to lose that joy again!”
She describes herself as “very lucky” that Beatrice Bürchler-Keller entrusted her with Unee BB in 2012. This was the horse that would turn her life around. In 2015 the pair were on the bronze medal winning team at the FEI European Championships in Aachen (GER) and they finished third at three FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas (USA) that same year, in Gothenburg (SWE) in 2016 and again in Paris (FRA) in 2018.
“Unee was one of the most important teachers for me”, Jessica says. “He wasn’t interested in me when he first arrived so I had to find a way to make myself interesting to him. He was nearly ready for Grand Prix when I got him and I really wanted to win his heart but I couldn’t do it the way I used to do it because I always grew up with the horses I’d ridden before. He already knew what he was doing and had his own way, so I had to learn his language before we could both learn a common language. I learned that it’s not just about the horse doing things my way but about doing what is best for each individual horse and being more flexible”.
Along the way she worked with many top trainers including Paul Elzenbaumer, “a very patient, loving and calm man” and then Stefan Münch, compatriot Isabell Werth who will be defending her title at the 2022 Final with Weihegold, then Jonny Hilberath, Morten Thomsen, Andreas Hausberger and Monica Theodorescu. “However I always have my own ideas, and I rely also on my brother Benni (Benjamin Werndl) who is very important to me – it’s our goal to be in the German team together some day!”, Jessica points out.
Now of course her career at top level revolves around the brilliant 15-year-old TSF Dalera BB who she has been riding since the mare was eight years old. “It was when she was 10 and we won the Louisdor Final in Frankfurt that I realised she could be very special, and when she was third in the Freestyle in 2019 (at the FEI European Championships in Rotterdam) that was the day I thought everything is possible. Then two years later (at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and FEI Dressage European Championships in Hagen) we proved it!”
And making their prospects even more exciting is the fact that Jessica believes Dalera has further room for improvement. “She feels she can give even more and when I enter the arena I always know she will try her heart out and give her best. I think she loves me and the life she is living. She loves travelling and she’s a real showgirl! But we both enjoy cantering through the forest as much as competing. She’s grateful for that, and so am I”.
Jessica is a woman of many talents. During lockdown she wrote a book – “Heaven on Horseback” – about her life, her struggles, her inspiration and her positivity, and she’s currently working on a second publication, a children’s book. She says a near-death experience, when she almost drowned, changed her view on life and helped her become more reflective and to move forward. She wants this latest book to be “a nice story, with a lot of learning”.
Her five-year-old son, Moritz, may be a little too young to enjoy it as yet because it will be aimed at children aged 10+. Moritz travelled with her to Ornago and it was the first weekend Jessica was without the support of her husband or parents, but it worked out well thanks to the help of grooms and riders. With another baby on the way – due in August and therefore negating any possibility of a tilt at the World Championship titles – she knows she’s going to have even more on her plate in future. “I’ll have to manage my life even better and I’ll need more help for sure. It’s really important to have a good work/life balance”, she says. However she’s aiming to return to action as quickly as possible after baby number two arrives. “I was competing four weeks after giving birth to my first son, so hopefully I can do that again!”, she says with a laugh.
For now however, the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022 final has her full attention. For Dalera the preparation will be kept very simple – “nothing special, just keeping her motivated, healthy and happy, hacking in the forest and if the weather is good then going on the gallops”, she explains.
And as for preparing herself, it will be about focusing on the reason she does what she does. “Sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we started in the sport – because we love horses. So many people focus too much on the outcome – the success rather than how to get there. I try to focus on how to get there, rather than the outcome”.
Being more Jessica….that seems to work…..
More information about the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2022
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