2018 – It was amazing!

Everyone is talking about the 2018 Challenge of the Americas!  It was a spectacular show with music, costumes and performances for everyone. The Challenge was live-streamed and watched around the world. We heard from Canada, Germany, Holland, Australia and more. At the Challenge Gala, 475 guests enjoyed the performance along with dinner and dancing. Hundreds of spectators filled the General Admission stands. Thank you so much for being a part of this amazing evening.

The Challenge of the Americas (COTA) began 16 years ago as a simple three-horse quadrille during the noon break at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby in White Fences to honor my mother, Jean Cruse, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 1996. The proceeds from COTA benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through Play for P.I.N.K. Their research is critical to finding a cure for breast cancer in our lifetime.

So many people have stepped up and given their time, their horses, products and financial support to make this benefit a success.

Thank you to the Challenge Team Sponsors: Purina, Winged Foot Enterprises, Back on Track and MatchNRide. Thanks to Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock Insurance for protecting the COTA benefit with the best insurance coverage possible, and to BioStar for making the live streaming possible. SSG Gloves generously donated more than 500 pairs of gloves for team riders and VIP guests. Thanks to the Global Dressage Festival for providing an outstanding venue and to all the Global staff for their attentiveness to every detail – from the live streaming through Chronicle TV to the serving staff in the tent.

We are so grateful to the Partners for Pink for generously supporting the Challenge this year: AmFund, CUatX Tack, Centerline Styles, Custom Saddlery, Gardy Bloemers, Diamante Farms, Janna Dresing, Hampton Meadows Farm, Horse of Course, Larks Home Run, Oak Meadows Farm, Palms West Hospital, Red Barn Feed & Supply, Roseview Farms, Summit Performance, Susan J. Stickle Photography, The Tackeria, Van Dell Jewelers, Wellington Regional Medical Center and UVEX Helmets.

The COTA Committee worked tirelessly for months to ensure a fabulous evening for all to enjoy. Thank you Carolyn Davey, Paula Enos, Merrilyn Griffin, Terri Rollins Kane, Eileen Johnston, Ilona Klimek, Alex Rozboril, Allyn Schiavone, Maryann Shingler, Cathy Tarantini, Sue Weakley, Barbara Wolff, Kim York, Marcy Zeltzer and Lily Zilo. And we must not forget the volunteers, a special group of individuals who provided invaluable assistance by keeping on-site operations running smoothly throughout the evening’s festivities.

Of course, the Challenge would not be possible without the generous horse owners. Heartfelt thanks to Lövsta Stuteri, Richard Freeman, Hampton Green Farm, Sarah Roda, Elena Schiefele, M. S. Westerdijk, J. Van Grunsven, Family van den Broek, W. Zwart-van den Berg, T. Reuzenaar, Scott Redones, Gay Scarpa, Meg Stevens, Marco Bernal, Bridget Hay, Virginia Yarur Ready, Ellen Reede, Johnny Robb, Melissa Mulchahey, Pam Goodrich, Diane Perry, Darrin Lawrence, Sallie Spenard, Betsy Van Dyke, Kate Sanders, Andrea Woodner, Sherry Koella, Ute Busse, Tina and Jaimey Irwin, Erika Murphy,  Evi Strasser, Diana Belevsky, Sarah Stanuschewski and Patricia Douglas.

And how about those riders! These accomplished athletes gave their all. For more than two months, each team of riders met every week without fail to practice their routines. Together with the talented choreographers and coaches, they developed, planned and perfected their fabulous performances and made March 9 an evening to remember.

Representing Holland, 7-year-old Naita van der Velden rode her beautiful pony with her Ponies for Pink tribute to music created by Ruth Hogan Poulsen. The world-renowned Swedish rider, Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén, opened the evening with her beautiful freestyle and Catherine Haddad Staller and Heather Blitz brought the crowd to tears with their emotional pas de deux exhibition. Discover Dressage took elegance to a new level with their four-horse PRE quadrille with riders Kerrigan Gluch, Sarah Roda, Elena Schiefele and Sophia Schults.

How can we say enough about Team Holland who joined us from afar via video? These riders jumped on board right away when asked if they would support the fight against breast cancer and ride for the cure. With a beautiful performance choreographed by Elizabeth Zimski, we say thank you to Michelle Westerdijk, Maria Anna Digman, Sylvia van den Broek, Walda Zwart, Miranda Hoezen and Renee Zoomers. Four of the riders even traveled from Holland to Wellington to join in the festivities. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!

Team MatchNRide started off the Team Quadrille Competition and rocked the house with choreography by Evi Pracht and music by Karen Robinson. Thank you to riders Jaimey Irwin, Tina Irwin, Evi Strasser, Tanya Strasser, Patrick Battison and Harper Mackenzie. We loved those pink horse boots!

Team Back on Track danced to the music of Beauty and the Beast, choreographed by Tigger Montague, while clad in costumes of all our favorite characters. Thank you Sallie Spenard, Betsy Van Dyke, Nicole Levy, Allison Kavey, Jim Koford (the Beast!) and Noel Williams.

Team Purina amazed us with a trip to the circus with choreography by Terry Ciotti Gallo and coached by Bill Warren. Kudos to the costume designs. This is a first for everyone to see a lion dancing with a zebra! Thank you Kim Herslow, George Williams, Pamela Goodrich, Kasey Perry-Glass, Charlotte Bredahl and Betsy Steiner.

Team Winged Foot capped off the competition with an amazingly elegant quadrille choreographed by Ruth Hogan-Poulsen. With matching pink neck sashes, ear bonnets and leg wraps on the horses, these riders finished off the evening’s competition in style. Thank you Raúl Corchuelo, Ilse Schwarz, Susanne Hamilton, Marco Bernal, Bridget Hay and Yvonne Losos de Muñiz.

Thank you to the Quadrille Competition Judges panel of Anne Gribbons, Lee Tubman and Lisa Schmidt. They awarded Team MatchNRide the BioStar High Point Award and Championship Title to the 2018 Challenge of the Americas.

Viewers from around the world followed the competition on Chronicle TV and were able to add their own marks via the Spectator Judging app. Thank you to Blackhorse-one.com in Germany for an app that let audiences worldwide participate in the Challenge with their personal judging scores. When the scores were tallied, Team Winged Foot won the Popular Vote via the Spectator Judging App!

As we bask in the glow of this 2018 Challenge of the Americas, we are already planning to continue the fight for a cure for breast cancer in 2019. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Mary Ross
M. Ross Consulting