It's that time of year again, in the little window between summer and autumn, to head up north for one of my favourite events of the year, Blair Castle International Horse Trials and Country Fair.
The village of Blair Atholl is genuinely one of the prettiest spots in Scotland. With tall pine trees surrounding beautiful stone-built houses dotted along the rugged banks of the River Tilt, and the bold white Blair Castle - the ancestral home of Clan Murray - set in picturesque parkland and beautifully presented gardens, it really is a majestic spot to host 4 days of equestrian sport.
This year, I was delighted to accept an invitation to help judge the Hiho Silver Best Dressed competition at the first horse inspection (or trot-up) on the Wednesday. Myself, the lovely Andrew Ransford from HiHo Silver, and Australian eventer Paul Tapner were charged with determining which male and female riders had presented themselves best, looking in particular for their attention to detail.
What on earth do you wear to judge a best-dressed competition? Pressure? - Oh yes! Thankfully, being a Toggi blogger, I have access to some of the very best country clothing on the market and I could not be more grateful to the team at Toggi who sent me THE most beautiful ensemble to wear for the event. From the brand new autumn/winter collection I wore the Blyth Tweed Cape, Baildon Horse Print Shirt - both of which attracted a lot of attention - and they were paired with Loredo breeches, the Phillipa belt and my Toggi Quartz field boots. I accessorised with my Hiho cherry-roller bracelet, a Longchamp bag and a bright coral manicure.
Judging the competition was a much harder job than I had imagined it would be - so many of the riders went to huge effort to select outfits for the inspection, many having bespoke items made specifically for the event.
We did however, select our winners, and along with our 2 runners-up, we shared their photos on social media and let you all guess who had been chosen. On the Friday, we revealed that Craig Barr and Sally Kidd were our deserving winners and presented them with their prizes in the Hiho Silver tent.
I have a few pieces of Hiho Silver jewellery myself and absolutely love them - so easy to wear, perfectly equestrian, and iconically 'Hiho'. Since I got it, I've worn my cherry roller bracelet every day and so many people have commented on it - if you wear jewellery, you MUST check out their website and go and meet the team on the stand at almost every equestrian and country show in the country. Here's a wee video telling the story of how a sack of potatoes lead to the start of Hiho Silver ...
The main event at Blair, is the eventing and as I was doing a fair bit of filming with Hiho Silver throughout the event, I was really keen to chat to their brand ambassador Emily King. I caught up with her after the dressage and she couldn't have been more lovely... (Note: As I was growing up Emily's mother, and eventing legend, Mary King was a bit of an inspiration to me - I even had a poster of her and King William on my bedroom wall! - so you can imagine my excitement when she joined Emily for her interview!!)
When I heard my old school friend Lyndsay Stewart was competing in the 1* event at Blair this year, I had to follow her journey. She and her horse Tartan Chill were amazing, finishing within the top 20 and winning the prize for the most improved score after dressage, her achievement is even more incredible given Lyndsay is still on maternity leave from her career as a physiotherapist. Watch how she got on here...
An event like Blair takes so many dedicated professionals to pull it all together and ensure it runs smoothly and a huge team of vets are required to help keep the horses in tip-top health and fit to compete. The lovely Hugh Somerville from Loch Leven Equine Practice, who happen to be our vets of choice, was one of the FEI vets for the event and we caught up with him to learn about the kind of jobs they have to do, what happens when a horse is 'held' at the trot-up, and have a look around the on-site clinic.
One of the lovely things about an event like Blair is that it brings a lot of the equestrian world together in one place and it's an ideal place to catch up with people, brands and sponsors that we work with. Myself and Marta from Eqclusive made the exciting announcement from Blair that I am now one of their sponsored riders. Yay! I've been a HUGE fan of their products for a while now and have got to know Marta who is quite an inspiration having built her now global business from scratch. Have a listen to her story, get inspired and buy her amazing products!
Another equestrian brand I absolutely love and am supported by is Topspec. The lovely Suzi Law and Katharine Mieras are our points of contact in Scotland and it's always great to get a catch up with them but Topspec have recently launched Vetspec, a selection of dog food. My dog KenRobinson is already fed on Vetspec and is looking well - Topspec for dogs? I'm sold! We caught up with Vetspec rep Richard King to learn more about it.
One of my favourite lust-after brands is Fairfax and Favor. I love their aesthetic and I'm completely sold by their marketing. Those fantastic, dreamy adverts in far off places with impeccably well-dressed people - I want to be those people and I'm pretty sure a pair of Reginas will make me one! I stopped by the Fairfax and Favor stand to meet the team and drool over the products...
Another brand on wish-list is the event title sponsor Equi-Trek. Known for their state of the art 3.5 tonne horse boxes, they also make trailers and larger vehicles that are also stamped with the Equi-Trek quality. We took a look around their top of the range 7.5 tonne box and it was gorgeous - I would quite happily spend my weekends away at shows sipping a glass of fizz in it's fab living area!
A brand who wasn't exhibiting their products at Blair, but who's brand logo I saw on a number of people throughout the week at the show, was Apt Cavalier. They amassed a large Instagram following earlier this year and quickly created a buzz about the launch of their first collection this summer. The founder and director of Apt Cavalier, Sarah Johnstone is a Scottish eventer herself and studied fashion design at college. Her 2 passions collided and Apt Cavalier was born. I grabbed a prosecco and a chat with Sarah while she was up at Blair...
In addition to the eventing and the shopping, the country fair section of the event at Blair offers showing classes for a number of different breeds and types of horses. Tiny tots on shetland ponies, ROR classes all the way up to Working Hunter finals are all held in the arenas at Blair and we followed a few competitors throughout the week...
I had an absolute blast up at Blair this year, so many highlights for me and can't believe it's all over agin for another year. It was lovely meeting and getting to know some new people, catching up with old friends and clients and capturing so much of it on film to share with you all. Chatting to people about the show it became very clear, it's a lot of people's favourite show - hear what you all had to say...
I've always said, it turns to Autumn after Blair and true to form, the leaves have started to turn, the air is markedly crisper and the horses are loosing their summer coats. We're headed towards a new season and looking forward to the next big show.
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