Free Rein With: Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl

May 18, 2022 - 8:00 AM

Pinpointing the exact moment Jessica von Bredow-Werndl took over the dressage world is a difficult task—but an argument can be made for the 2021 German Championships in Balve. At that early June show, she and TSF Dalera BB bested the then World No. 1 combination of Isabell Werth and Bella Rose 2 in the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and the Grand Prix freestyle for a gold medal hat trick.

Von Bredow-Werndl and the 15-year-old German-bred Trakehner mare (Easy Game—Dark Magic, Handryk), bred by Silke Fass and owned by Beatrice Bürchler-Keller, have since repeated that experience again and again. At her first Olympic Games last year in Tokyo, von Bredow-Werndl earned team and individual gold medals. In September, she earned the same medals at the FEI European Championships (Germany), and most recently the pair topped the FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Leipzig, Germany. She’s No. 1 in the FEI Dressage World Rankings.

JVBW free rein
“She shows me every time that she loves to compete,” Jessica von Bredow-Werndl said of TSF Dalera BB, with whom she has has earned medals and ribbons from the Olympic Games, FEI European Championships and the FEI World Cup Dressage Final. Arnd Bronkhorst Photo

“This World Cup Final win was very emotional because it’s not normal that you keep on improving on such a high level,” said von Bredow-Werndl. “ ‘Dalera’ is so special as she always gives me the feeling when I enter the arena that she will give 100 percent. And she did it again; she gave 120, 130 percent.

“She shows me every time that she loves to compete,” she added. “And most importantly, we’re both having fun along our way; we enjoy the time we spend together but still are humble and reflective enough to improve.”

The 36-year-old rider and trainer runs Aubenhausen in Ostermünchen, Germany, with her brother Benjamin Werndl. She and her husband, Max von Bredow, have a son, Moritz, and another child on the way.

How have you stayed mentally strong throughout these victories? Is there something you tell yourself before you go into the ring?
The most important thing for me is to reconnect with my inner child, with the little Jessica: why she started riding and [why] she’s doing what she does. I think it’s all about the love for what I’m doing and the love for the horses. That’s what I remind myself at every competition.

What German word do you wish there was an English equivalent?
“Ventil” [which roughly translates to valve or outlet in English]. I use it a lot when I explain that you have to keep the “ventil” open to make it easier for the horses to relax.

What is your favorite movement to teach?
Piaffe.

What do you wish you knew as a young professional starting out in the industry?
It’s not about the goal we set; it’s about how to get there, how to create the journey.

Who is your biggest idol?
I have no single idol. I have many people from different sports or even business partners who inspire me. I think it’s about personality—not only successful but happy people.

Which horse alive or dead would you most like to ride?
I would have loved to ride Totilas.

What is your dream vacation?
Anywhere at the sea or in the mountains with my family—maybe Mauritius.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Cruelty towards animals (and humans).

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
“Just be Jessica.” My coach Holger Fischer told me that several years ago. At first the important thing was to get to know who Jessica really is, and the second step is then to become more and more Jessica.

What is TSF Dalera BB like? What was the process like of developing the mare?
Dalera is the cutest and cuddliest horse in the world and still such a show-woman who loves to present herself and show herself. It’s just so much fun traveling with her and so much fun cantering through the forest with her. And I think the special thing about the training with her is that she loves what she does, and she can exactly tell you what she needs. If she needs a hack out, she gets it. And she tells me when she wants to train; she’s ready for it. If she needs a break, she also shows me. So, she’s very smart.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
From the sport point of view, that would [be] the Olympics. From a general view, I think it’s the life and the balance I’ve managed to create with my family and the horses in Aubenhausen.

What got you into writing and publishing your first book, “Heaven On Horseback”?
I had the feeling that I wanted to write my thoughts down five years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. And the working title was: “The seven most important things I have learned with the horses so far.” After some other good riders published their books, some publishers came to me and asked me, “Why don’t you write a book?” And at first I thought, “Why me? Why now? It might be too early.” But at the end it was just super timing because the main writing part was during the lockdown of COVID in Germany. It was a good way to reflect on different things in my past and was a joy to write it.

You are about to release a children’s book as well. What inspired that?
A good and famous youth book and children’s book writer contacted me and told me about the idea. And I loved the idea, and I’m very, very excited that the book will be published in August.

How do you juggle having a family and staying at the top of the sport to get the best of both worlds?
Of course, it’s not that easy to balance everything. I’m very, very lucky to have my family and wonderful people in my team who support me. I’m living at our yard, so it’s so good to be surrounded by super cool people who support me. I think it’s a question of prioritization, and so I manage pretty well—not every day, but I really try to be the sportswoman and professional athlete in the morning and the mommy in the afternoon.

What is your most embarrassing horse moment?
There are probably many, but I can remember one special one when I was at the Oberbayerische Meisterschaft championships [in Germany] where my pony already was on its way home. I had to wait for the big prize-giving but realized that my boots were already on the way home. So I was standing on the podium barefoot with socks on.

In three phrases, how would you describe yourself?
Very honest; patient with the horses but not very patient with myself; and loving.

What is something that is a must-have in your refrigerator?
Oat milk.

What trait do you value most in a horse?
Honesty.

What about in a person?
The same.

What do you do to relax in your downtime?
In the summer driving to Lake Chiemsee or reading an inspiring book.

What would you most like to change about the horse world?
I would just love to remind some people to enjoy the time with their horses more and don’t take everything too seriously. And in general: that all horses have the chance to go out in the field.

What is something people wouldn’t necessarily know about you?
I eat more than I look like, but [I’m] vegan.

Does your son enjoy horses, or is he looking at other sports?
My son likes horses, but he’s not super interested in horse riding so far. Sometimes he loves to ride, sometimes not.

Do you have any hobbies outside of riding?
Skiing, hiking, reading, meeting friends.

What’s changed since your massive success last year?
Nothing. [I do] a little bit more interviews; [I have] a little bit more to do. But the most important things haven’t changed, and that’s good. I’m still doing what I love every day and being surrounded by the people I love, and the animals I love. The only thing that became a little bit more difficult is to have enough time for myself.

Where would you like to be in the next 10 years?
I have many more dreams I want to bring into reality. But I think it’s important to focus on the journey as I have done the last couple of years—just to keep on doing what I love, stay healthy, train up more horses to the top of the world, and keep the balance for my work and my family.


This article ran in The Chronicle of the Horse in our May 9 &16, 2022, issue. Subscribers may choose online access to a digital version or a print subscription or both, and they will also receive our lifestyle publication, Untacked. 

If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, probing looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.

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