I don’t know about you, globetrotters, but I was glued to the TV for this year’s Individual Dressage Grand Prix. Freestyle routines are such a pleasure to watch, especially when the horses and riders are at the top of their game. And WOW – what a competition! The title of Olympic Dressage champion passed from Charlotte Dujardin and the now-retired Valegro (although Charlotte was thrilled to win bronze on her new gelding Gio) to Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and her mare Dalera from Germany.
Jessica climbed through the ranks on a remarkable stallion called Unee BB, but since his retirement, it’s TSF Dalera who has taken her to the highest of heights.
‘Dalera is a very, very special mare as she is the cutest horse in the world when you’re cuddling with her, when you’re walking around with her, when you’re just having a good time […] but as soon as you sit on her, she wants to give her very best, and she’s very eager. She’s really willing to work and she feels like a rock star in the competition.’
Having helped Germany win gold in the Dressage Team Grand Prix Special the night before – the country’s ninth win in the last 10 stagings of the event – Jessica’s first-ever Olympic Games were already a huge success. She and Dalero scored 84.66% to secure team gold, but that was nothing compared to their Freestyle performance the following evening.
Many horses gave the Grand Prix Special everything they had and were left slightly off-peak for the Freestyle, but not Dalera! She was as energetic and flashy as ever. Combined with a gorgeous routine and impeccable technique, this earned the pair a score of… drumroll please…
Close behind was Jessica’s team mate and mentor, Isabell Werth, with 89.67%, and Charlotte Dujardin scored 88.54% to claim bronze.
Celebrating her win, Jessica said, ‘I feel pure joy, relief and incredible gratitude. I have such a wonderful horse and such an incredible team that stands behind me – and of course my family.’
Speaking of family, it might surprise you to learn that Jessica’s parents weren’t at all horsey! She and her brother, Benjamin, developed their skills and their farm by buying horses, building them up, and selling them on under the watchful eyes of a number of top junior coaches – and Isabell Worth, thank you very much.
‘We are not from a riders family, my mum was a skier, my father a sailor, but [that] was probably the most important time of our life because we learnt how to build up young horses, up to Grand Prix.’
The result of Jessica’s training and experience is a style of horsemanship that we absolutely love. She ensures her steeds have plenty of time in the field every day, even in winter, and loves cross-training with the 500 metre galloping track and gorgeous trails on her family’s drool-worthy farm (click here for a tour).
‘I love to compare our horses with highly skilled children, because they really want to do it right if they know how we want them to move, or what we want them to do, and I think it’s our job to find good ways [to make the training] fun for them. It’s our job to motivate them, and to build them up as real personalities, and make them proud, and I think at the end they pay us everything back when we just treat them as real great dancing partners.‘
And if that’s what makes an Olympic champion, the sport of dressage is on the right track.
Which dressage combination was your favourite, globetrotters? Did you pick the winner? Let us know in the comments!