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
President
M. Ross Consulting
mary@mrossconsultinginc.com

Partners for Pink Share Hope with the Challenge of the Americas

Challenge of the Americas (COTA) Partners for Pink Judy Sloan of Roseview Farms, Cece Stewart of Oak Meadows Farm, the Wellington Regional Medical Center, and Sarah and Katie Hoog of CUatX Tack equestrian boutique have first-hand knowledge of the strength and power of breast cancer survivors.

“I’ve had family that’s been hit with breast cancer, including my sister-in-law,” Sloan said. This is Sloan’s second year to support COTA with a Partners for Pink sponsorship. “It’s a way for my husband, David, and I to give back through a sport that we love to a cause that we feel passionate about. It’s a cool format.”

COTA raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through its partner, Play for P.I.N.K., while providing a unique entertainment experience in the winter horse capital of the world, Wellington, Florida. Teams of six Grand Prix dressage riders compete in freestyle quadrilles set to music in the Team Challenge. This year, five teams will be competing for bragging rights at the March 9 event to be held in at the Global Dressage Festival show grounds.

“The Challenge of America’s is an amazing experience,” Stewart said. “It is just wonderful to see the equestrian community come together in support of a great cause. Like many, I have friends and a sister who have suffered from breast cancer and are breast cancer survivors. Their brave fight gives us all inspiration to fight this disease.”

The medical staff at Wellington Regional Medical Center, which has a wide array of breast care services, also joined as Partners for Pink to help the cause.

“We have a very active medical staff of almost 1,000 providers and we try to work with the hospital to support projects, especially ones like this that are unique to our area,” said Dr. Richard Hays, the chief medical officer at Wellington Regional. “We have such a strong connection with the equestrian community.”

Sarah Hoog said she attended the first Challenge of the Americas many years ago. This year, the event welcomes its first team from abroad, Team Holland, which will compete via video. This also marks the first year that COTA will be live streamed at tv.coth.com.

“Breast cancer affects everybody,” Hoog said. “We all know someone who has been affected by it, whether it’s a family member, a friend or a friend-of-a-friend. It’s really scary, especially being a woman. It’s nice to get involved and it’s nice to give back.”

Both Sloan and Stewart said they love seeing the community come together for the cause.

“It’s fun to watch the teams because there is a healthy, competitive energy that’s infused into the event but it’s all in the spirit of everyone having a very good time while banding together for a great cause,” Sloan said. “It’s such a positive evening. They are having a great time and they’re giving back.”

Stewart said becoming a Partner for Pink in support of the Challenge of the Americas is an amazing opportunity to be part of an exciting evening in support of finding a cure for breast cancer.

“It is always a lot of fun and just shows how committed the equestrian community is to fighting this disease,” she said. “I am proud to part of this event.”

Homer Hits It Out of the Park with Support of Challenge of the Americas

Homer is thrilled to support the Challenge of the Americas (COTA) as a Partner for Pink, but his mom won’t let him go to the Friday, March 9 event to sit ringside at the Global Dressage Festival showgrounds. She’s afraid that his fondness for eating the contents of all the sugar packets may make him an unsuitable dining companion at the Challenge Gala.

That’s because Homer is a horse. A horse with his own website and Facebook page. 

When Homer, whose full name is Larks Home Run, saw the gorgeous Grand Prix dressage horses trailering into Team Winged Foot’s freestyle quadrille practices from his stall at Ruth Hogan Poulsen’s Bespoke Farm, he wanted to get in on the fun. He asked him mom, Elizabeth “Beth” Stauber-Johnson, if he could practice too but she suggested that, instead, he become a Partner for Pink.

He was excited since one of the perks of being a Partner for Pink is two tickets to the Challenge Gala and Homer was ready to don his best pink polo wraps, add some pink glitter to his mane and tail, and enjoy the competition from a ringside seat at the Global Dressage Festival show grounds. Beth put the kibosh on that.

“My mom said I can’t go to the event and I’m bummed,” Homer said. “But, the other guys in the barn and I have a plan to break out of our stalls and watch the livestream of the event on the Chronicle TV channel, tv.coth.com, in Ruth’s office. Shhhhh! Don’t let on you know.”

Homer said that Beth was pleased to be a part of the event since it raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through their partner Play for P.I.N.K.

“My mom’s own mother died from breast cancer and she’s happy to help me support the cause,” Homer said.

Beth said she likes how easy it is to become a part of the Challenge of the Americas through Partners for Pink and she’s excited to help organize the large group coming from Bespoke Farm to cheer on Team Winged Foot.

Homer and his barn buddies will also be rooting for the team from the office at Bespoke but they are still working out how to vote for their favorite team via the COTA voting app, Spectator Judging. Homer said it’s hard to vote without opposable thumbs but he and his friends have been discussing their options after night check.

“I am so proud to be a Partner for Pink,” said Homer. “We are all looking forward to watching it and cheering on Team Winged Foot.”

Heather Blitz and Catherine Haddad Staller Think Pink to Join the Cause

Two top Grand Prix dressage riders, Heather Blitz and Catherine Haddad Staller, have joined forces to create a pas de deux as the perfect way to begin the 2018 Challenge of the Americas (COTA).

As fans of the event that raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through Play for P.I.N.K., both riders have been spectators for the past several years but this is the first time they have ridden in support of the Challenge.

Heather Blitz

Blitz will be riding Ripline, a 10-year-old Danish Warmblood stallion, owned and bred by Richard Freeman of Oak Hill Ranch. The duo wowed the judges at the 2017 Dressage at Devon in the Intermediaire I Freestyle with a score of 71.625 percent and they claimed blue ribbons in both the Intermediate A and the Intermediate B at the Tryon, North Carolina, CDI3* in September.

Catherine Haddad Staller

Haddad Staller will be aboard Remarkable, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Royal Blend. Remarkable was the 2016 USDF Adult Amateur Champion at Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I with his rider, Barbie Ashplundh.

Haddad Staller is happy to support a cause about which she is so passionate.

“Cancer research in general and, breast cancer research in particular, are areas of intense interest for me,” she said. “It’s a worthy cause and I will make whatever small contribution I can to raise awareness and money for research!”

Blitz agreed. “The prevalence of breast cancer in our population is astounding and devastating,” she said. “Being a part of the effort to reduce that feels good!”

Haddad Staller is dedicating her ride to her beloved cousin, Rima Haddad, who died from breast cancer in 2015. “Rima was an elegant, beautiful and very kind soul,” she said. “I miss her.”

She believes that the common thread that knits those who support a cause is a welcome force in the world. “Everyone agrees that breast cancer research needs support,” she said. “Let’s join forces on advancing our fundraising and awareness goals. Let’s show the world what unity of purpose can do.”

Back on Track Backs the Challenge of the Americas

Long-time Challenge of the Americas (COTA) sponsor Bo Lofvander of Back on Track® believes in paying it forward.

Acutely aware of what breast cancer can do to a family after losing his sister-in-law to the disease at the age of 36, Lofvander believes in COTA’s mission to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through Play for P.I.N.K.

“This can happen to anybody,” he said. “Like many of us, I had a family member who had it; it started with breast cancer and it spread.”

The opportunity to help the cause by sponsoring a competition team and donating Back on Track® saddle pads to all the riders involved in the March 9 event is what Lofvander calls a small donation in the fight against breast cancer.

Tigger Montague rolls up her sleeves to win again at Team Back on Track practice.

Team Back on Track choreographer Cynthia “Tigger” Montague also lost someone important to cancer – one of her best friends.

“She’s in my mind when I’m working on choreography and I think, ‘What would Cindy think of this?’,” she said. Montague is also a COTA sponsor through BioStar, her holistic, whole food dog and horse supplement company, which also takes philanthropy seriously. “I really believe in giving back. To me, the Challenge is one of the most important events in the equestrian calendar.

“It is such a perfect harmony of companies,” she continued. “I represent BioStar, a holistic, whole food company, and Back on Track is a holistic therapy company. What a great synergy when the choreographer works with a team that represents the best therapeutic horse, dog and people products in the industry.”

Team Back on Track perfecting their pattern.

Montague’s choreography for the team, along with her choice of music, tells a story. Team members Allison Kavey, Jim Koford. Nicole Levy, Sallie Spenard, Betsy Van Dyke and Noel Williams have been practicing the pattern to the powerful music Montague has chosen.

“The choreography interprets the music,” she said. “It is not something I just thought up. It came from listening to the music.”

In 2016, Team Back on Track was victorious in the Challenge of the Americas with Montague at the helm and Lofvander was there to watch. Unfortunately, he will be unable to attend the 2018 event and hopes the team repeats their success. More importantly, he hopes that spectators and participants donate to help cure breast cancer.

“It’s a good feeling to give,” he said. “If you are lucky enough to have a little bit of success, you can pay it forward.”

Team member Noel Williams with Tigger Montague.

There are a variety of ways to get involved to help end breast cancer. You can purchase VIP tickets at challengeoftheamericas.com and General Admission tickets for $20 at the door for the Friday, March 9 event to be held at the Global Dressage Festival show grounds in Wellington, Florida.

Raffle tickets are available at the event and, for $10/ticket or $40/5 tickets, you may have a chance to win valuable prizes including a dressage saddle, a bridle, a girth, jewelry or an afternoon sailing on a 30-ft. sloop rigged sailboat on beautiful Biscayne Bay for you and three of your friends.

You can also watch the Challenge via livestream on Chronicle TV, at tv.coth.com. Vote for your favorite team and donate to our beneficiary, Play for P.I.N.K., via our voting app, Spectator Judging.

Jim Koford practicing in his costume for Friday night’s Challenge of the Americas.

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén Joins Line-Up for Challenge of the Americas

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén added her name to the star-studded list of Grand Prix riders who have given their time and talent to raise funds to help cure breast cancer in the 2018 Challenge of the Americas.

The six-time Olympic Games, eight-time European Championships, and six-time World Cup Finals athlete will help kick-off the event with a sensational freestyle aboard Paridon Magi, Lövsta Stuteri’s 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (Don Primero-Napoli, Napoleon 625).

“I think what they are doing for breast cancer research is such a great adventure,” she said of the charity that raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through their partner, Play for P.I.N.K. “I think it is really important and I love doing something to participate.”

Tinne and Paridon Magi are wowing the crowds and the judges at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) series this show season. The pair earned an 81.150 percent for the blue ribbon win in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the AGDF CDIW in January and they also claimed the top prize in the Grand Prix at that show. Since then, they have posted more outstanding scores in the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle during the 2018 AGDF.

The pair’s COTA performance will take place at the same venue as her ribbon-winning competitions, the International Arena at the Global Dressage Festival on Friday, March 9 starting at 5:30 p.m.

Williams Family Helps Friends Think Pink

Challenge of the Americas (COTA) Partners for Pink Judy Sloan of Roseview Farms, Cece Stewart of Oak Meadows Farm, the Wellington Regional Medical Center, and Sarah and Katie Hoog of CUatX Tack equestrian boutique have first-hand knowledge of the strength and power of breast cancer survivors.

“I’ve had family that’s been hit with breast cancer, including my sister-in-law,” Sloan said. This is Sloan’s second year to support COTA with a Partners for Pink sponsorship. “It’s a way for my husband, David, and I to give back through a sport that we love to a cause that we feel passionate about. It’s a cool format.”

COTA raises funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through its partner, Play for P.I.N.K., while providing a unique entertainment experience in the winter horse capital of the world, Wellington, Florida. Teams of six Grand Prix dressage riders compete in freestyle quadrilles set to music in the Team Challenge. This year, five teams will be competing for bragging rights at the March 9 event to be held in at the Global Dressage Festival show grounds.

“The Challenge of America’s is an amazing experience,” Stewart said. “It is just wonderful to see the equestrian community come together in support of a great cause. Like many, I have friends and a sister who have suffered from breast cancer and are breast cancer survivors. Their brave fight gives us all inspiration to fight this disease.”

The medical staff at Wellington Regional Medical Center, which has a wide array of breast care services, also joined as Partners for Pink to help the cause.

“We have a very active medical staff of almost 1,000 providers and we try to work with the hospital to support projects, especially ones like this that are unique to our area,” said Dr. Richard Hays, the chief medical officer at Wellington Regional. “We have such a strong connection with the equestrian community.”

Sarah Hoog said she attended the first Challenge of the Americas many years ago. This year, the event welcomes its first team from abroad, Team Holland, which will compete via video. This also marks the first year that COTA will be live streamed at tv.coth.com.

“Breast cancer affects everybody,” Hoog said. “We all know someone who has been affected by it, whether it’s a family member, a friend or a friend-of-a-friend. It’s really scary, especially being a woman. It’s nice to get involved and it’s nice to give back.”

Both Sloan and Stewart said they love seeing the community come together for the cause.

“It’s fun to watch the teams because there is a healthy, competitive energy that’s infused into the event but it’s all in the spirit of everyone having a very good time while banding together for a great cause,” Sloan said. “It’s such a positive evening. They are having a great time and they’re giving back.”

Stewart said becoming a Partner for Pink in support of the Challenge of the Americas is an amazing opportunity to be part of an exciting evening in support of finding a cure for breast cancer.

“It is always a lot of fun and just shows how committed the equestrian community is to fighting this disease,” she said. “I am proud to part of this event.”