Jenna DeLozier & Invincible
On the third weekend in March, Flight Line Dressage Shows returned to the Tri-State
Exhibition Center, just north of Chattanooga, to host the Scenic Flight Dressage Show. Many of the tried and true Flight Line competitors brought their A-game, and some reached new heights in terms of scores and levels. Addison Bishop punched her ticket to regionals with a new personal high score of 62.7% at Fourth Level Test 3. Emma Whiteside won the High Point Junior with a 65.5% at Training Level Test Two. The Triple Crown Open Dressage Seat Equitation Challenge was as hotly contested as ever.
However, this year was full of firsts: the first time the Flight Line team used Horse Show Office, digitally scribed, and ran the show out of their new mobile command center. But most excitingly, a new competitor took home the overall high point.
Jenna DeLozier rode into Scenic Flight eyes wide open, with few expectations. The twenty-three-year-old software engineer, and mother is no stranger to equestrian competition, if it’s the hunter/jumpers, which she showed in for 15 years. As a Junior and Young Rider, she competed with her heart horse, most recently in equitation. The strong partnership brought a sense of stability and comfort that helped Jenna confidently tackle a competitive career and even pursue a master’s in computer science at Georgia Tech.
However, in August tragedy struck. Jenna lost her heart horse, Kenny, an off-the-track Thoroughbred adopted at three who raced as Dining In.
After a period of remorse, Jenna knew she couldn’t give up on riding. Like everyone who shows, riding is as much a part of Jenna’s life as her family. By November, she began searching for her next mount. Anyone who has sought another horse after losing one so close to their heart knows it’s a tough process. After several leads and test rides, Jenna found the one.
Vince, a gray Belgian Warmblood, standing at 17 hands with a soft eye, appropriately shown under the name Invincible. For the past few months, the former equitation rider bonded with her new partner, a former hunter/jumper, at Scots Ridge Farm. Trainer Deb Willson helped the pair become one and prepare for their first show together. Looking for a new direction, Jenna chose to enter the Scenic Flight Dressage Show. It would be her first competition with Vince and their first dressage show.
Vince denied to comment, possibly indicating his uncertainty about the switch to dressage. Nonetheless, his saddle choice said it all.
Upon arrival Friday afternoon, Jenna and Vince trotted around the arena as a way to spend some nervous energy and take in the atmosphere. Between the welcoming riders, spacious arena, and “Trot It Like Its Hot” playlist, Jenna decided the vibe was “a lot more low-key” compared to her hunter/jumper days. Vince agreed.
But the calm atmosphere didn’t stop Vince from associating the judge’s whistle Saturday morning with the jumper ring. After a pleasant warmup and final warmup lap around the dressage ring, Vince heard the high-pitched whistle and “look[ed] for the fences,” as Jenna put it. A novice rider might have hesitated, but Jenna’s years of experience prepared her for this moment. With Vince tenser than she’d like, Jenna shortened her reins, bent Vince around her leg, and turned into the dressage ring at A with precision and ease. Once her Training Level Test 1 ride began, the soothing music and calm arena washed over the duo, but not all went as planned. Trotting into one corner, Vince unexpectedly broke into a canter for two strides, a frustrating misstep to say the least. Jenna corrected, continued, and tried to put the error out of her head as she finished her test, judged by esteemed FEI judge David Schmutz.
Within seconds of saluting and leaving the ring, she felt her
phone vibrate and saw a new notification. She opened it.
“Jenna DeLozier, Training Level Test 1: 68.654%”
The hunter/jumper pair was now a Dressage Duo with a score no one would sneeze at, despite the unexpected canter. Relief more
than anything characterized the mood. The first one was over;
three to go for the weekend. Jenna shared her score with trainer Deb and new friend Haley Seals, who she met the day before.
Shortly after the excitement and relief, Jenna and Vince turned to their next challenge: Training Level Test 2. She hadn’t traveled all the way from Maryville, TN to dip her toe into this new discipline. Instead, Jenna rode two tests each day. But much like Friday, the atmosphere was helping Vince and Jenna “take a breath.” When he requires a little more leg, “stops pulling,” and is “less sensitive to the aids” Jenna knows he’s relaxed. The second test of the day ended much like the first. A subtle buzz from her phone and another 68.6%.
With both tests complete, it was time to untack and get warm. Until this point, the cold was the least of Jenna’s concerns, but once the nerves of her first day of dressage settled, the frigid temps reminded her spring had not yet sprung. This was a theme of the weekend that only got worse into Sunday.
Riders, horses, and show staff alike woke to temps in the twenties. Clear skies and crisp air kept the day far from miserable, but it’s never obvious how a horse (or rider) will react to frigid temps. Jenna rode early that day. She led Vince from the barns up the hill to the warmup slowly enough to avoid any rush of air across her face, her only exposed skin. She was noticeably colder Sunday compared to Saturday, but a smile still greeted the rider steward. Spirits remained high, despite every reason for them to be low. Without a trainer’s eyes on the ground, Jenna and Vince began their usual warm up.
A second attempt at Training 1 gave them the opportunity to improve on their one-score Training Level Test 1 average and top the overall highpoint leaderboard. The judge blew the whistle – no “looking for the fences” this time – and Vince led the way into the arena. Jenna’s first halt matched the calm of the venue. A few spectators quietly watched from the ring-side deck. The sun, not quite above the covered arena, lit the recently dragged footing. They cruised through the transitions, maintained the appropriate gaits, and nailed the final halt. But was it enough?
“Jenna DeLozier, Training Level Test 1: 71.5%”
The weekend’s newly minted Dressage Duo thrived in the frigid conditions and even
broke into the coveted 70s, improving on her first dressage test percentage score
by nearly four points. Colder and windier conditions influenced Jenna’s final test of
the weekend, but her showing at Training Level Test 1 solidified her standing as
the overall high point.
Surprisingly, this year’s Scenic Flight Dressage Show High Point reached
this achievement in Vince’s preferred jumping saddle. When asked if Jenna would
fit Vince for a dressage saddle now that she’s found success among the letters,
she responded “maybe.” While the close contact and long girth looked out of place,
as Jenna put it, “it’s legal and it worked.” Indeed it did!
And yet, the thrill of a Scenic Flight victory couldn’t last forever. After winning the coveted overall high point ribbon and saddle pad, the trailer ride home encountered unexpected turbulence. The slow hiss of a flat tire sidelined Jenna’s group in a Waffle House parking lot, suddenly shifting the joyous mood to a tinge of urgency. Jenna and Vince navigated the situation with the same skill they displayed in their earlier tests, waiting calmly curbside while a good samaritan helped get the Dressage Duo back on the road.
Jenna’s first time down centerline punched her ticket to the Flight Line Dressage Shows Year End Championships, but there are still plenty of opportunities left for other competitors to challenge Jenna for the Year End Top Honors. Congrats to Jenna for her success on the centerline. Only time will tell if she will maintain her leading position through the end of the competition season.
Matthew Himel, Senior Editor
Find the full calendar of Flight Line shows at FlightLineShows.com.