Jessica von Bredow-Werndl
Horse & Hound|April 22, 2021
The German dressage rider of the moment chats to Polly Bryan about her Olympic aims, going vegan and why she nearly quit the sport
Polly Bryan

THE cancellation of the second consecutive World Cup Final was galling for many people, but perhaps none more so than Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. For two years running, the German rider has topped the rankings for the highly competitive Western European League, and each year the final has been called off, first succumbing to coronavirus and then the outbreak of equine herpes virus.

On the day we speak, Jessica should have been doing her grand prix at the final in Gothenburg, riding her 2019 European individual bronze medallist TSF Dalera BB in an attempt to deny her compatriot Isabell Werth yet another World Cup title. Instead, she is having an office day, a novelty borne from the past year of lockdowns.

“My main office is on a horse, but even when I gave my horses a day off, I wasn’t taking a day off myself. So during ‘corona’, I rethought my schedule and now I have one office day a week, and one day completely off. It’s working perfectly, but everyone assumes I’ve had so much spare time with competitions cancelled.”

Actually, Jessica has been busier than many during the first part of 2021. Having kicked off the year by winning the World Cup qualifier in Salzburg, she then travelled to Doha for the CHI5* and won everything there as well.

“As soon as the shows started again, I just drove,” she says.

Now, all her focus has been redirected towards competing at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I am optimistic the Games will take place. I am putting everything into getting there; there is no plan B for me,” says Jessica, 35.

If selected, this will be her first Olympics. And she is even hungrier for it after collecting team golds at the 2018 World Equestrian Games and 2019 European Championships. Of course, riding for Germany at any dressage championship comes with a dose of pressure.

“The gold is so expected of us now,” she says. “But pressure is all about how you handle it. I have learnt how to handle my nerves at competitions, although definitely when I wake up in the morning at a big team competition, my heartbeat is very high! But I have had many good rides where I have had these nerves beforehand, so I always think back to those.”

One of those times was at the 2019 Europeans, the scene of Jessica’s first-ever individual medal, where she and Dalera left the Rotterdam crowds entranced by their elegant and emotive La La Land freestyle routine that scored 89.1% – only 1.8% off gold.

“The week started off badly in Rotterdam – I had a disappointing ride in the grand prix and in the special I was so desperate to show everyone what we could do that I made big mistakes. I nearly didn’t make it to the freestyle,” she recalls. “But once in there, my thoughts left and I rode my heart out. It was very special, and once you’ve achieved an individual medal, you’re left wanting more.”

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