Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and her Trakehner mare, TSF Dalera BB, are one of the most decorated combinations ever to compete in dressage. Together they’ve won gold medals at the Olympic Games, European Championships, World Championships and World Cup Finals.
However, despite the ease and harmony Jessica and Dalera can present between the boards, none of their victories have come easily. Instead, their success is a story of continual improvement, mental fortitude and years of hard work – with some impressive comebacks thrown in for good measure.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera’s beginnings
Dalera (Easy Game x Handryk) was bred by the late Silke Druckenmüller, a two-time winner of the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses (WBFSH) Dressage Breeder of the Year.
Owned by Jessica’s long-term sponsor Beatrice Bürchler-Keller, Dalera has been ridden by Jessica all of her competitive life and is the main successor to her breakthrough partner Unee BB who retired in 2018.
In those early years together, Jessica explained on The Horse & Hound Podcast that Dalera could be a little tense but already showed much potential in the piaffe and passage. “She’s always had a lot of energy and she’s very, very smart, so as soon as she understood how to use her body and she got more strength, it got really easy for her.”
The pair made their international debut together in 2016 when Dalera was nine years old at Lamprechtshausen CDI3* in Austria, where they were second in the prix st georges (PSG) on 72.28% and first in the inter I on 71.92%.
Their international grand prix debut came two years later in 2018 at Ebreichsdorf CDI3* where they won the grand prix on 75.06% and the grand prix special on 76.21%.
A championship debut came as part of the German gold medal-winning team at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, where they came ninth in the grand prix on 76.67% and 16th in the special on 73.87% – the freestyle was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.
More championship medals came in 2019, as Dalera and Jessica won team gold with Germany at the European Championships in Rotterdam. Individually, the pair were left disappointed with their 76.89% in grand prix – a sign of how far they’d already come by that point.
Jessica had imagined the freestyle was out of her reach, let alone an individual medal. Just three riders from each country were able to progress through to the freestyle and this was a German team including Isabell Werth on Bella Rose, Dorothee Schneider on Showtime and Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo.
But they were able to turn it around and pipped Sönke and Cosmo by just 0.42% to be the third-highest-placed German. In the freestyle they won their first individual medal together, claiming bronze on 89.10% and scoring nines for the half-passes which had tripped them up in the grand prix.
“In the special, I wanted it too much, and we had too many mistakes and it was just a big, big portion of luck that we made it into the freestyle because Sönke also had mistakes,” says Jessica. “It was the first day in my life where I realised everything is possible.”
Speaking to Horse & Hound at the time she added: “On the first day I shed tears of sadness, today it’s tears of happiness. It’s been exhausting for my emotions, this was the happiest end I could wish for – Dalera felt extraordinarily good today, and there was no second of the test that we lost one another.”
Dalera’s rise to greatness
Rotterdam proved to be somewhat of a watershed moment for Dalera and Jessica as they would go on to be almost unbeatable for the next five years.
In 2021, Jessica made her Olympic debut at the delayed Tokyo Games, with Dalera this time coming out on top over Showtime and Bella Rose in the grand prix, the special and the freestyle, to win both team and individual gold.
“What I felt was that from very first second to the last second she was 100% with me and trying her heart out for me to perform,” said Jessica, who finished her test with a remarkable one-handed centre line. “She was so listening to my aids that I couldn’t do too much or too little. She was incredible tonight.”
The combination had been tipped to do well, with Dalera having already beaten Showtime at Munich CDI4* earlier that year. Jessica admitted that she felt considerable pressure in the run-up to the Games.
“But I always told myself that Dalera doesn’t know the difference between the German championships and the Olympics, so why should I make a difference? The only thing we can do is to give our best,” she told Horse & Hound. “But the fear of not performing knocked on my door every day.
“I remember the feeling when I realised that I could be individual Olympic champion, even though it wasn’t sure yet, and that feeling was so emotional,” she adds, describing the moment she watched Isabell’s score of 89.6% flash up on the screen and realised she was still holding the top spot with just two riders left to go.
“I didn’t expect it to be that emotional, but it showed me how much I really wanted it. The moment you know you might achieve your dream is so incredible. There was a lot of pressure inside me and at that moment everything just fell down. It was unbelievable.”
In a bumper summer, the combination was back out just two months later to win team and individual gold again this time at the European Championships in Hagen.
“It was perfect for me to have to perform again [so shortly after the Olympics], to show that we’re not a one-hit wonder,” Jessica told Horse & Hound at the time. “It was very emotional – I didn’t expect her to be that good again. That was the best feeling I have ever, ever had. She’s unbelievable.”
She scored 91.02% to win the freestyle, with the judges awarding her 27 10s in total for their piaffes, halts and piaffe-passage transitions – with many of those watching, including Jessica herself, expecting an even bigger score.
From Tokyo onwards, Dalera was unbeaten barring a loss in the grand prix qualifying round at the German Championships to Sönke and his rising star Fendi in 2023 – a blip she corrected in the grand prix special to win her third German national title.
That unbeaten, two-year run included two World Cup Final wins in Leipzig in 2022 and Omaha in 2023 as well as a European Championship individual gold and team silver medal at Riesenbeck in 2023.
Her European Championship showdown with Lottie Fry and Glamourdale had been billed as a clash of the titans, with some suggesting beforehand that the then-16-year-old Dalera may have already reached her peak.
That was not to be the case as Jessica and Dalera retained their European title on a personal best score of 92.82% – despite mistakes in the one-time tempi changes, without which they could’ve scored even more.
“The best word to describe my whole week here is grateful. I am so grateful to have such a wonderful dancing partner in Dalera, and to have her owner here and my family, my kids and all my team at home,” said Jessica at the time. “It’s very special, and this never becomes normal.”
“Every time I’m allowed to enter the arena, it’s a gift,” she added. “She always tries her very best. It’s just up to me. If I’m focused and on point, then she is as well. She’s my mirror.”
Jessica puts Dalera’s continued success down to three key ingredients: “Fun, motivation and really listening to what she needs, and this is what I’m getting better and better at.”
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