Hi All,

The updates from England have taken a northern turn up to Scotland in this weeks adventures with Valerie 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 And I must admit there has been some component of adventure!

You may or may not know what all goes into juggling riding and competing at the elite levels of Eventing. I think anyone reading this knows that I am up for any challenge 💙 but boy oh boy did I give myself a run for my own money these past 8 days! Last fall I had the honor of working with Alec Lochore, one of the most admired eventers around the world and I mean that from every aspect of the sport! He’s done everything from riding around 5*s to organizing the Olympics in Tokyo and literally anything in between. This winter I received a surprise email from him asking if I could be available for any of the events that he organizes, which of course was an easy yes ha!, and along the way all of this threaded through my summer and fall Eventing plans. But surprise I ended up on the 4* jury at the prestigious Land Rover Blair Castle International Horse Trials as my first gig in the UK 😳

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I am a terrible over packer. Ask my girls. Going to a competition they have to leave so much room in the trailer for my bags on the morning of departure and that usually includes one bag entirely stuffed full of shoes #trueconfession so imagine my personal struggle with packing for 6 weeks overseas and weight restrictions on your luggage! Everyone told me to be prepared for anything in Scotland this time of year, even snow. How do I not take that seriously?! But. This trip has been all about learning and adapting. I managed to fly to Scotland with one carry on bag much to the complete dismay of everyone at Blair. Meanwhile, I don’t know what I owe the Scottish weather gods because also true story, I was prepared to buy so much stuff in the trade fair 😂 It was outrageously warm, I thoroughly enjoyed sweating on cross country day in my jumper! How appropriate to call it a sweater!

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To say that Blair Castle is a destination event is an understatement. We know about it in the US #bucketlist - but being there in person just brings so much to life that no picture, email, description, or story could do justice to the real experience! It is literally a three ring circus with the Eventing 1 2 3 and 4*s only being in ONE of the THREE arenas! I saw jumpers, shetlands, side saddles, and Clydesdales depending on how fast I blinked. There’s a kids amusement park, trade fair and food trucks line every arena and the parties at night live up to the rumors although that’s another email entirely 😉 Okay fine one quick party pic

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I arrived on Tuesday evening. This time of year it’s nearly light out all day and night long and I was told to stay awake for the last 45 minutes of the drive. I started taking pictures; but really what a waste because you just can’t even. I tried and I failed hundreds of times on my phone lol I felt like I was at a Hollywood studio and at any moment this army of Highland horses and homesteaders were just going to pour down the face of the mountains. Mountains I call them. Hills they seem to say. To each his own which is likely why I could never survive here. Went shopping (of course 💁🏼‍♀️) and was lmao when the ladies summer section was made entirely of knitted half sleeve sweaters!

But. It’s all about the horses. Of courses. And boy did they love the amazingly green grass (because yes I am selfishly grateful that England is still in a drought) and the freakishly refreshing shall we say temperatures for this time of year. You only take a true cross country horse to Blair. It somehow manages to be uphill both ways 🤣 and is a true cross country test. I felt all of the excitement as a rider the morning of 4* cross country. I couldn’t help compare all of it to what Favian and I would face at Blenheim in 3 weeks time. But meanwhile I had to focus on the task at hand which included judging nearly 50 4*S riders and 15 4*L riders. These included everything from first timers at the level to WEG pairs honing in their skills as their final run before the world championships #pinchme

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I don’t expect the average eventer to understand exactly what an Eventing judge judges so here you go. We start on the first day approving the XC course before anyone arrives. This is honestly the most important thing we do. Risk management = are the courses appropriate and safe for the level. Eek that’s a big one but my personal measurement is if I walk up to it and cringe at the thought of Favian jumping it…..well then we need to discuss! But if I couldn’t wait to take my unicorn across the track….well then it’s going to be a great weekend! That is shortly followed by the horse inspection. The horses jog in front of the ground jury alongside the vet and we determine if the horse is fit to compete. Yes, we also make snide remarks about everything from farrier to fashion trends so just accept the fact that you are being judged 😘 Thursday and Friday are full of dressage I mean fun. We watch each pair with eyes wide open, you never know when the best test is going to strut down that centerline! It could be at 7:40 Thursday morning or it could be at 7:40 Friday night and you better be ready! I know it sounds so stupid but I am literally on the edge of my seat riding with every rider. Easy at Blair because I was in a Land Rover Defender #luxury Bummed it wasn’t the same test that I am riding at Blenheim but none the less helps you hone in your sandbox skills!

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The short and long got a little mixed to accommodate all of the horses at the end of the weekend. The shorts did SJ first and the longs had to prove their ultimate endurance and stamina for the level and do XC first. Makes for such an exciting day as an official! And then the reverse on Sunday. Except a major part of the long format is to evaluate soundness and fitness to compete again on Sunday morning after finishing XC on Saturday afternoon. For the shorts, it’s very exciting because the horse and rider really going for it on cross country could win it! For the longs, it’s very dramatic because you jump in reverse order of standing. So the overnight leader, heading into the arena, knows exactly how many rails or time faults or none of the above even he or she has appearing on the main stage. And at Blair, it is quite the stage! Surrounded on all sides by tents and spectators, it is a very unique feel and one that certainly provides the atmosphere and experience for horses and riders aiming for elite international competition. Again, Sunday morning we have to inspect the show jumping track and make sure it’s aligned within the specs for the level. They offered a lot of unique fences and I think that really upped the level of the competition. A good friend of mine is surely reading this and saying “Eventing is three phases, people!” And he’s so true even though often over looked.

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Sometimes I just can’t believe that a farm kid from Indiana who learned to ride western when she was 6 weeks old has been trained to make insightful observations about the FEI #1 ranked event rider in the world! Never stop dreaming! Or learning! Hard work might be hard; but my goodness the right people notice at the right time and I promise it will change your life forever. I have this stupid screen shot on my phone from a FB story. It says that the only difference between try and triumph is a little umph 👊🏻 #loveit I was a part of a dream team this weekend which just adds to the hype excitement and expectation. What an opportunity. For the riders and officials. Great week!

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Also taking a moment out to shoutout to my friends family sponsors and clients because let’s face it each and everyone of you is so near and dear to me 🍀And I couldn’t be living or loving this life without your support #biggesthugs Please share with anyone you know has been supporting this circus life!

Valerie

PS #teaser for next week - you can’t make this stuff up when I try to tell you how my week at Blair ended getting ready for Wellington - I was running the advanced as my final lead up to Blenheim…..barely made it….!