Jessica von Bredow-Werndl Contender for German Olympic Team After Rebuilding Equestrian Career
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Feb. 4, 2020
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
With no success competing horses and few immediate prospects eight years ago, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl considered cutting way back on her equestrian career and instead continuing to run the family fitness center where she was having fun.
“Being unsuccessful in riding and pretty successful in running a fitness center sometimes you think about change,” Jessica, 33 years old and a mother told dressage-news.com.
Now, Jessica and TSF Dalera BB that have world and European championship team gold, rank fifth in the world and is a combination considered a serious contender for the German team to go to the Tokyo Olympics in six months. The only Germans ahead of her are Isabell Werth on Bella Rose at No. 1, on Weihegold at No. 2 and Dorothee Schneider on Showtime No. 3.
Isabell on Bella Rose and Dorothee on Showtime, as well as Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo, were her team mates at the 2019 Europeans where Jessica and Dalera also won Freestyle bronze behind Isabell taking gold and Dorothee silver.
So focused is Jessica on going to her first Olympics that although she has virtually locked up a start at the World Cup Final–tied at the top of the Western European League with her brother, Benjamin–that she will pass up going to the Final in Las Vegas in mid-April.
Although she is scheduled to compete at the Neumünster, Germany World Cup event next week, the ninth of 11 qualifiers in Western Europe, she told dressage-news.com she wants to keep both Dalera and Zaire-E that she’s also been competing on the indoor circuit in top form for the German Olympic events that will decide the team. The German championships at Balve three weeks after the World Cup and the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen a month later are the key events to select three combinations for the Tokyo team.
The Las Vegas Final in 2015–the first of three third places at the annual championship on Unee BB–was fun and a super experience, she said, but “I’m just a girl from the country. I was really shocked when I left the elevator in the morning at seven o’clock there was still the thumping music and grandmas sitting at the slot machines. It was so crazy.”
Jessica, who will turn 33 years old during the Neumünster show, grew up in an athletically accomplished family; her father, Klaus, was a German national sailing champion, and her mother, Micaela, a member of the German junior ski team for seven years.
She and her brother, two years old, were successful in youth divisions.
But the horses were not good enough for Big Tour so they were sold and the money was used to buy young horses, like Zaire-E acquired 10 years ago.
“This was the start of a very long, hard time,” Jessica recalled. “We disappeared because we had no horses, no success, even with the youngsters.
“We didn’t find the next generation early enough. We didn’t know. This was probably the most important time of our lives because we learned how to build up young horses.”
Feeling a “little bit lost” at the time, Jessica asked Isabell Werth for help.
“She said ‘yes’ even though I didn’t expect her to.
“They were the most unsuccessful years we ever had,” Jessica said of the five years that she typically took her horses to Isabell one week a month, “not because of Isabell but because we had no horses.”
She describes Isabell as an amazing rider and an amazing trainer, “but I just didn’t have the right horses. I can’t really say it was unsuccessful because I learned so many things, just by watching. She’s a genius. She’s the most successful rider ever and it’s hard to beat that.”
Because it was part-time training and part-time being by themselves, Jessica and Benjamin also knew they couldn’t copy Isabell.
“We found our own way more and more within these five years,” she said.
“But I also had a time where I wanted to stop riding. When I was 25 I was really thinking about stopping it, or reducing it one to two horses a day because after studying I was also running our fitness center. This also was fun.
“Being unsuccessful in riding and pretty successful in running a fitness center sometimes you think about change.”
At the time, she met Holger Fischer, a life coach, who asked her the right questions that led Jessica to the conclusion she preferred riding.
She stopped working in the gym and focused on riding, deciding to give it her all for five years until she 30.
Unee BB, a KWPN stallion, became her main competition horse in 2013 and also what she describes as the “hardest and best teacher.”
“He was not really motivated when I got him,” she said. “He showed me how to motivate a horse properly, making every day a little bit different, not to focus too much on technical stuff but strengthening, condition training. To be patient, to feel and to be in the here and now.”
It paid off. She made the German A squad when she was 28 and Jonny Hilberath took over her training that has continued for eight years so far. When Jonny cannot help, Monica Theodorescu, the German team coach, works with her at shows and goes to the Werndl center to train her. She also works on piaffe by hand with Andreas Hasberger, a rider at the Spanish Riding School, and for the past three years with Morten Thomsen, the Danish Olympic rider.
“We have four trainers at the moment, but my main trainer is my brother,” she said. “There’s no sibling rivalry, and the older we get the better it works.
“He knows it and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am if he wasn’t there. And it’s the other way round. We have each other, we support each other. Of course, we can also argue like brother and sister but usually by the next horse we understand each other; we like each other again because we need each other’s eye. We are really good friends.”
She has had the most success on Dalera, the Trakehner mare now 13 years old that she got when the horse was eight, “pretty tense but showing a lot of potential.”
“I didn’t push but waited it out and when it works you pat her and when it doesn’t I ignore it.”
Dalera now performs on a new level, “a horse with no limits for me because she is such a dancer, an easy mover. She is a real rock star in the arena, she really wants to present herself and wants to show how good she is. She loves competing. She is the most amazing horse I’ve ever ridden in competition at this level so far.”
Earning Freestyle bronze at the Europeans last September, she said, was a super end to what had not been a successful Grand Prix and Special.
“The Freestyle was so good because I surrendered,” she said. “I was so nervous in the morning but I wanted to show the world how good she is. But as long as you want it that’s hard. It doesn’t work. If you are too pushy you can’t reach that. Mistakes can always happen and the more you care about mistakes the more they happen.
“The universe was on my side. At the end it was a little miracle. Everything worked out. Maybe that lifted my motivation and my belief that it was possible to get further.”