In 2021, she experienced her summer fairytale. Olympic gold medallist. European Champion. Number one in the world ranking list. It is hardly possible to achieve more. And yet Jessica von Bredow-Werndl still comes across as being totally modest. Her love of horses is her recipe for success. An interview with the 35-year-old dressage star.
Looking at it from a distance: Do you still have to pinch yourself or have you already been able to process your victories of last summer?
A bit of both really. I have taken it all in, also because I am incredibly grateful that I was able to experience these achievements. But now and again I still have to pinch myself to make sure it really did all happen.
While you were stood on the winner’s podium during the prize-giving ceremony in Tokyo you looked like you couldn’t believe it. What are your memories of this special moment?
It was as if a small journey through time passed through my head, I think my whole riding career to-date went by in fast motion. All of the defeats, the continual picking yourself back up again and carrying on. But also the many interim goals that I had achieved and which made me continue believing in my dream. And then I looked up to the flag, listened to the anthem and realised that this dream had now come true.
The media’s interest is immense. How are you experiencing this emotional, but also strenuous time?
I find it very moving that so many people are pleased for me. For that reason alone, I want to give something back and let others share this experience with me. That doesn’t work if I shut myself away. But it is definitely a challenge prioritising. I can’t accept every enquiry. However, people shouldn’t consider a refusal to be a personal decision against them, but rather as a decision for myself and my family.
So, your family takes top priority?
Absolutely. My family means everything to me. That is why I also describe myself as a “part-time professional athlete”. I love my everyday routine in Aubenhausen: Spending the morning with the horses and the afternoon with my son. I consider myself so fortunate.
Where are your medals? Do they have a place of honour?
They are hanging in a place in my home, where I can see them every day. They are not framed or in a glass case, but are there to touch. It is important for me to keep the memory alive. Because these medals are also a confirmation for us, myself and my team, that the path we tread with the horses is the right one. That gives me a good feeling.
How would you describe that path?
Of course, we want to get the best out of ourselves and our horses, but at the same time also maintain a certain playful ease and enjoyment. It is very important to me that my horses enjoy what we do together. This only works through recognition, variety and a lot of time on the ground – in other words not in the saddle, but instead occupying myself with the personality of the horse. This allows me to find an individual connection to each one of them.
Does Dalera sense it when it is a special competition?
Of course. We spend even more time with each other at championships. There she has my undivided attention, which she enjoys immensely. She is very gentle, calm and totally affectionate by nature. But as soon as I mount and take up the reins, she is “totally switched on”, reacts to the finest aids, wants to present herself and give her best. That is an indescribable feeling.
You always seem very calm yourself. Is that impression deceptive or are you really never nervous?
Yes, of course. I am tense and nervous too. That really is a big challenge mentally: To keep calm and always deliver the best performance possible. Because of course the fear of making mistakes at a big competition or championships knocks on the door every day. Winning isn’t something one can take for granted. But over the years I have developed techniques that help me channel my nervousness in the right direction.
You do a lot of sports apart from riding. In what way does that help you in the saddle?
Dalera and I are like a dancing couple, I normally take the lead (laughs). If I don’t lead her correctly, she can’t dance well. That is why I find it important that we riders are also athletes. We can only support our horses in moving expressively if our own bodies are supple and stable. For this reason, my brother and I have developed DressurFit®, a fitness program through which every rider can gain strength and balance.
You are just 35 and already a two-time Olympic gold medallist. Where do things go from here?
The nice thing is that nobody can take what I have already achieved away from me. But I really would like to repeat it (laughs). And I certainly do have a few more goals I would like to achieve.
Winning the Deutsche Bank Prize at the CHIO Aachen is also missing from your list of victories …
Yes, that’s right. Alongside the championships, this show is always the highlight of the year. With perfect conditions, exceptional competition sites and a fantastic crowd. Having one’s name inscribed on the winners’ board there is every rider’s dream. Mine too, of course.