Portrait: Dressage Star Jessica von Bredow-Werndl

3 min.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl has been involved in sports her entire life. Her parents were sports enthusiasts, her mother was a skier, and her father sailed competitively. Her older brother, Benjamin Werndl, began riding as a child, which sparked her interest in horses, and she started taking riding lessons at the age of four. Three years later, she got her first horse and quickly started moving towards the top of the equestrian world.

Successesful Youth Career

As young riders, both siblings had success, but Jessica stood out the most. She has had a strong focus on taking care of her mental health since she twice rode in the wrong direction due to nervousness during a European Championship qualification, which resulted in her finishing last. She recovered from that experience and won double gold in the junior division at the European Championships in 2002. The following two years, she won two silver and two gold medals in the young rider division. The siblings’ youth career peaked at the 2005 Youth European Championships. Both were part of the German team that won gold, while Jessica also won gold in the individual competition, and Benjamin won silver. However, the transition to competing at the senior level was far from smooth, and it took several years for Werndl to regain the success she had in the youth ranks.

Read More: The Formula of Success: Why Jessica von Bredow-Werndl keeps on winning

Unee and Dalera

After stepping up to the senior level, Werndl’s career progressed relatively quietly, as she pursued a marketing degree and trained horses with her brother. In 2012, she met the horse Unee BB, who would prove to be crucial to her career. Together with Unee, Werndl began participating in Nations Cup finals, and they were part of the German team that won bronze at the European Championships in 2015. Werndl and Unee also won three bronze medals at the German Championships in 2014 and 2015, before Unee retired at the age of 17 in 2018.

Foto: Malgré Tout Media Archive

Even before Unee retired, Werndl had started riding Dalera, the horse that would not only meet but exceed high expectations. Werndl began riding the then 9-year-old mare in 2016 and she was more than ready to take over from Unee two years later. Together with Dalera, Werndl achieved her biggest win in her senior career at that time: gold at the World Championships with the German team in 2018. This victory turned out to be the starting point for the most successful period in Werndl’s career to date. The World Championship gold was followed by team gold at the European Championships in 2019, team and individual gold at the 2021 Olympics, and triple gold at the 2021 European Championships. Most recently, she won the World Cup Finals in 2022 before going on maternity leave for her second pregnancy. When she went on leave, she was ranked number one on the FEI world ranking list.

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Maternity Leave and Return

Although Jessica did not participate in the World Championships in Herning due to her maternity leave, the event was not without a Werndl. Benjamin participated as part of the German team that won bronze and finished just off the medal positions in the individual freestyle in fourth place. This result was even more impressive, considering he had just made his debut for the German team earlier that year.

Jessica has returned to competing in horse riding competitions this year and is aiming to defend her World Cup title with Dalera in early April. During her absence from competition riding, she fought to change the FEI’s regulations regarding returning to competition after maternity leave. She was at risk of losing points on the ranking if she returned before her 6-month maternity leave was over. In response to this, she made a post on Instagram presenting the issue and calling for a change in the rules. 3 months later, the FEI announced new maternity leave rules that were more flexible for each rider.

As she continues to compete and strive for greatness, Jessica’s influence extends beyond the arena. Her advocacy for more flexible maternity leave policies in equestrian sports has helped to make the sport more accessible for women and mothers, and her success on the world stage has inspired a new generation of young riders.

Overall, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl is a true trailblazer in the world of dressage, and her impact on the sport will be felt for years to come. With her talent, determination, and unwavering spirit, there is no doubt that she will continue to shine bright and inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

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