Sold-Out! 2020 Challenge of the Americas a Rousing Success

The 2020 Challenge of the Americas was one to remember. The South Florida weather was picture-perfect and the atmosphere electric as a sold-out grandstand and VIP audience cheered top riders and their glittering mounts as they danced under-the-lights in the International Arena at the Global Dressage Festival Showgrounds in honor of the fight against breast cancer.

If you weren’t able to attend, we hope you joined the excitement via the amazing live stream provided by Chronicle TV. The spectator Judging App, sponsored by IDA Development, was a great success with spectators world-wide voting for their favorite teams.

During the pre-event exhibitions, we enjoyed the upbeat music of the jumping quadrille sponsored by Park Luxury Accessories and performed beautifully by the pink-clad first family of jumping, Millar Brooke Farm, with riders Charlotte McLaughlin, Amy Millar, Jonathon Millar, and Kelly Soleau-Millar.

We laughed at the delightful skit by Shining Moments and Diva, performed by Leah Drew, Savanna Garvey, Tegan Pedigo and Madison Shellnut, participants in Lendon Gray’s Winter Intensive Training program. Those two ponies really had all the right moves in all the right places and Tigger Montague was a hilarious commentator.

The outstanding dance moves by two well-matched ponies ridden by khaki jumpsuit clad Lauren Chumley and Jessie Hays had the audience sure “who you gonna call” in a Ghostbusters-themed pas de deux.

Thank you to the Challenge team sponsors BioStar, Purina, Gardy Bloemers, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Hylofit, and Winged Foot Enterprises. You make it possible to continue our fight against breast cancer.

Thanks to Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock Insurance for protecting the COTA benefit with the best insurance coverage possible, to our media partner the United States Dressage Federation for partnering with us to spread the word, to Fleeceworks for providing saddle pads for all the riders and to MacRider Saddlery for the donation of a beautiful, high-end dressage saddle.

We are so grateful to the Pink Patrons: Lark’s Home Run, Iron Spring Farm, Seahorse Stables of Wellington, Oak Meadows Farm, Ruth Hogan-Poulsen Dressage, CA Dressage Music and KlassicKur. Thank you Partners for Pink: AmFund, Choice of Champions International, Susan J. Stickle Photography, The Horse of Course, Summit Hypnosis and Sports Coaching, Equi-Clean, The Tackeria, and Van Dell Jewelers.

The Honorary Chairs and Host Committee were in overdrive for months before the event to ensure a fabulously successful evening. Thank you to our Honorary Chairs: Laura Lassman (Play for P.I.N.K), Myra Biblowit (Breast Cancer Research Foundation), Margaret DuPrey, Betsy Juliano, Terri Rollins Kane, and Betsy Steiner. And kudos to the host committee members: Iseult Broglio, Mary Dell’Amore, Eileen Johnston, Ilona Klimek, Catherine McLaughlin, Mary Ross, Alex Rozboril, Allyn Schiavone, Bunny Smith, Elizabeth Stauber-Johnson, Cathy Tarantini, Patti Thompson, Sue Weakley, Barbara Wolff, Kim York, 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.

And how about those riders and their amazing horses! These accomplished athletes gave their all. For two months, each team of riders and their steady mounts met weekly without fail to practice their routines. Together with the talented choreographers and coaches, they developed, planned and perfected their fabulous performances.

Team Gardy Bloemers, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management entered the arena dressed as flashy renditions of the flamboyant Sir Elton John. The team performed a heartfelt story of strength and survival to the music created by the high-profile Sir Elton, an advocate of breast cancer research. Thank you choreographers and coach Alex Rozboril along with Carlos Aguera and riders Alice Tarjan, Noel Williams, Michael Pineo, Jennifer Benoit, Andrea Woodard and Nicole Harrington.

Dancing to the pop music of Beyonce, Team Hylofit dressed to impress in sequined outfits and glittered horses and, just like Queen Bey, they wowed the crowd with their synchronized precision. Thank you to choreographer Melissa MacLaren Velix along with coaches Chris Hickey and Jacquie Brooks and riders Meagan Davis, Heidi Degele, Hope Cooper, Melissa MacLaran Velix, Molly Paris, and Caleb Scroggins.

Team Purina’s professional-caliber costumes created a buzz when they came down center line as each rider, coach and choreographer represented characters from movie soundtracks created by award-winning composer, John Williams, including “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark, “ET” and “Harry Potter.” Thank you to coach and choreographer Terry Ciotti Gallo and coach Bill Warren along with riders Pamela Goodrich, Jane Hannigan, Oliva LaGoy-Weltz, Michael Bragdell, Betsy Steiner, and Jaralyn Gibson.

Team BioStar honored the heroes in our lives as they returned clad as swash-buckling superheroes to defend the universe against evil-doers accompanied by powerful show music and exciting choreography. Thank you choreographer and coach Tigger Montague along with riders Jim Koford, Allison Kavey, Lauren Chumley, Becky Cowden, Lisa Lewis, and Sara Schmitt.

Team Winged Foot Enterprise entered in USA-themed rocker costumes giving the audience a hint of things to come when they came down centerline in denim vests with American flags across the back. Their winning performance set to the iconic music of Bruce Springsteen showed the audience who was “The Boss,” ending with the crowd pleasing, “Born in the USA.” Thank you coach and choreographer Ruth Hogan Poulsen along with riders Shannon Dueck, Bridget Hay, Ilse Schwarz, Ashley Madison, David Marcus, and Susanne Hamilton.

2019 – Bigger, better and even more spectacular!

We did it! All of us . . . and it was bigger, better and even more spectacular than ever. The quadrille teams stepped up their performances (if that’s even possible) and put on a show that thrilled the 500 VIP guests and the sold-out General Admission grandsstands packed to capacity with an enthusiastic and constantly clapping audience.

If you weren’t able to attend personally, we hope you enjoyed the amazing live stream provided by Chronicle TV. The Spectator Judging App, sponsored by IDA Development, was a great success with spectators from around the world voting for their favorite teams.

During the pre-event exhibitions, we enjoyed the upbeat music and jumping quadrille performed beautifully by the first family of jumping, Miller Brooke Farm, with riders Charlotte McLaughlin, Amy Millar, Jonathon Millar and Kelly Soleau-Millar. And we laughed at the delightful skit by Shining Moments, performed by Jordan Osborne and Londyn Pachota, participants in Lendon Gray’s Winter Intensive Training program. That pony really had all the moves and Tigger Montague and Pati Pierucci were hilarious commentators.

Thank you to the Challenge team sponsors: Hylofit, Purina, Gardy Bloemers, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, MatchNRide, and Winged Foot Enterprises. You make it possible for us to continue our fight against breast cancer.

Thanks to Cunningham & Cunningham Livestock Insurance for protecting the COTA benefit with the best insurance coverage possible, and to our media partner, the United States Dressage Federation, for partnering with us to spread the word. BioStarUS and its owner, Tigger Montague, went above and beyond to make the evening a rousing success and Back on Track came through again as a valued supporter.

We are so grateful to the Pink Patrons IDA Farm, Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine, Larks Home Run and Oak Meadows Farm. Thank you Partners for P.I.N.K.: AmFund, EquiJet, Summit Performance, Susan J. Stickle Photography, The Horse Of Course, The Tackeria and Van Dell Jewelers.

The COTA Committee was in overdrive for months before the event to ensure a fabulous evening. Thank you Paula Beauchesne, Sophie Ghedin Eileen Johnston, Terri Kane, Ilona Klimek, Randy Leoni, Mary Ross, Alex Rozboril, Elizabeth Stauber-Johnson , Cathy Tarantini, Patti Thompson, Sue Weakley, Barbara Wolff, Kim York 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.

And how about those riders? These accomplished athletes gave their all. For 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.

Holland-based Team MatchNRide performed via jumbotron with their military-themed quadrille choreographed by Marieke Verdonk. The team traveled from Holland to Wellington to join in the evening’s festivities. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next year!

Team Hylofit – when you came in to the arena the entire audience thought you were riding Clydesdales and there were whispers from the crowd that they had never seen Clydesdales move like that. Now we all want a dressage draft horse! Thank you for bringing in fresh ideas and thanks to choreographer and rider Melissa MacLaren Velix, riders Meagan Davis, Heidi Degele, Nicholas Hansen, Molly Paris, Caleb Scroggins and Hylofit’s Secret Weapon Jacquie Brooks.

Team Purina – you took us back in time with the best music of the 70s. The audience was singing and clapping along with the precise performance. Thank you choreographer and coach Terry Ciotti Gallo along with coach Bill Warren and riders Pamela Goodrich, Bent Jensen, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz, Kasey Perry-Glass, Betsy Steiner and George Williams.

Team Winged Foot – how creative was the rider jacket design spelling out FIND A CURE? The whole performance represented the fight against breast cancer with the pink sashes, bonnets and accessories. The intricate choreography was beautiful to watch. Thank you choreographer and coach Ruth Hogan-Poulsen and coach Susanne Hamilton along with riders Marco Bernal, Raúl Corchuelo, Shannon Dueck, Bridget Hay, Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Ilse Schwarz.

The last team to go, Team Gardy Bloemers, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, blew the audience away with their daring and creative choreography by Tigger Montague and music from Pirates of the Caribbean. Decked out in full costume, Jack Sparrow (aka James Koford) along with pirates and wenches Lauren Chumley, Rebecca Cowden, Allison Kavey, Betsy Van Dyke, and Noel Williams performed thread-the-needle canter half-pass sequences that were thrilling and brought the audience to their feet. 

Three generous donors have chosen the newest level of support for the 2019 Challenge of the Americas, the Pink Patrons.

Oak Meadows Farm

Cece Stewart of Oak Meadows Farm is a faithful COTA supporter who, not only believes in the cause, but has a special reason to support the Challenge. “I do this in honor of my sister, Lee Waite, who is a breast cancer survivor,” Cece said. “She has been cancer-free for 15 years. She is an amazing lady with a huge heart and great courage. Her life goal has been to serve others as a nurse for 30 years and she is currently an ICU nurse at Carolinas Medical in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is simply a great role model and inspiration. Together, with the support of one another and through events like the Challenge of Americas, we are helping to fight for the cure. Many heartfelt thanks to everyone who is sponsoring, organizing, performing, or volunteering for this great event.”

Lark’s Home Run

Lark’s Home Run (aka Homer) and his human, Elizabeth (aka Beth) Stauber-Johnson, also chose to support the 2019 Challenge as a Pink Patron because of special people in their lives taken by breast cancer. Beth’s mother and her husband Ron’s mother died from complications of the disease.“It is not a lesson in intelligence when confronted by the insidious, wicked and vile killer,” Beth said. “The only hope is to focus on the raw fight to beat it, which is becoming more and more successful through the research COTA supports. In thinking emotionally about watching my Mom’s war with it, a rather well-known quote from Marilyn Monroe comes to mind, one that actually my Mom wore on her chest, if not literally, surely subliminally. It is, ‘Sometimes you just have to throw on a crown and remind them who they are dealing with.’ God bless all who fought and are no longer able, and all those who fought and have survived. Ten years later, and forever, I will always be proud of my Mom never giving up. Never, never.”

Florida Atlantic University

“The Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University is nationally recognized for its innovative curricular and research programs that emphasize high touch-high tech training experiences to produce the next generation of clinical and research leaders,” said Dr. Janet Robishaw, the Senior Associate Dean for Research, and Chair and Professor of Biomedical Science at FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine. “In particular, our faculty are working to identify how genetics and lifestyle factors affect the risk of developing breast cancer with the ultimate goal of preventing the disease. We are proud to sponsor the Challenge of the Americas and to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through its Play for P.I.N.K initiative to improve the quality of life for all patients and survivors.”

Five Top Teams Vie for Victory at 2019 Challenge of the Americas

Five teams of top riders and their dedicated coaches, choreographers and eyes-on-the-ground have thrown their helmets in the ring in an effort to claim the crown at the 2019 Challenge of the Americas (COTA). Although there’s no physical prize, these fierce competitors practice many hours to not only Challenge Breast Cancer, but to win! You’ll see some perennial favorites on this list who joyfully join us year after year, and some new teams ready to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through Play for P.I.N.K.

Meet the 2019 COTA Team Riders and Team Sponsors

Team Winged Foot’s sponsor, Kathleen Kennedy Dunagan, said she is pleased to once again sponsor a team for the 2019 COTA.  “So many of us have been touched by the ravages of breast cancer, whether it be in our personal lives, or that of our family or friend,” she said. “For us, being able to contribute to the cause of finding a cure for this disease in a way that showcases the grace and beauty of dressage, is a great honor. The Challenge of the Americas, through the tireless dedication and efforts of the riders, horses and organizers, is an event like no other. This evening is an art form unto itself. . .and to now be broadcasting globally is exciting indeed!” 

TEAM WINGED FOOT
Riders: Yvonne Losos de Muñiz, Shannon Dueck, Bridget Hay, Ilse Schwarz, Marco Bernal, Raul Corchuelo
Choreographer: Ruth Hogan-Poulsen
Coaches: Ruth Hogan-Poulsen and Susanne Hamilton

Gardy Bloemers became interested in supporting the Challenge the first time she visited Wellington.  “On my first ever weekend trip to Wellington about six years ago, I came on the weekend of the Challenge and that was the year Debbie McDonald and Mason Phelps rode a freestyle together,” she said. “It was a fun event and, of course, since then it has grown and grown. In my wealth management practice, I always try to support the things I love and care about, which gives me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people. Cancer has touched me and touches all of us; it’s great to be able to contribute to breast cancer research in this manner.”

TEAM GARDY BLOEMERS, MERRILL LYNCH WEALTH MANAGEMENT
Riders: Jim Koford, Allison Kavey, Noel Williams, Betsy Van Dyke, Lauren Chumley, Becky Cowden
Choreographer and Coach: Tigger Montague

Purina returns once again to sponsor a team and to treat the competitors to pre-event refreshments before the ride under the lights at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds. “This is such a wonderful event,” said Shiela Conde, South Florida Equine Sales Specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition LLC. “We are proud to support Play for P.I.N.K. and The Challenge of Americas. It is an honor to have a team in the Challenge and it’s great to work with all of the riders, teams, coaches, horses and staff. The commitment and energy of all involved is incredible!”

TEAM PURINA
Riders: Pamela Goodrich, Bent Jensen, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz, George Wiliams, Betsy Steiner, Kasey Perry-Glass, Choreographer: Terry Ciotti Gallo, Team Coaches: Terry Ciotti Gallo and Bill Warren

Hylofit, a company dedicated to building a stronger partnership between horse and human with their innovative heart rate monitor, is a new sponsor for the 2019 Challenge of the Americas. “It was natural for Hylofit to step up and sponsor a team,” said Eliane Cordia van Reesema, one of the founders of Hylofit and their eyes-on-the-ground coach. “Hylofit is an all-female company dedicated to equine and human health, and we are happy to be a part of the experience this year. The Challenge of the Americas is such a great cause and a fun way to raise money for breast cancer research.”

TEAM HYLOFIT
Riders: Nicholas Hansen, Heidi Degele, Caleb Scroggins, Meagan Davis, Molly Paris, Melissa MacLauren Velix, Choreographer: Melissa MacLauren Velix, Coaches: Eliane Cordia van Reesema and Camelia Montalvo

Mary Ross, Challenge of the America’s founder and organizer, is also the creator of MatchNRide.com, a horse sales website matching riders with their perfect new equine partner. “I started the Challenge in 2002 to honor my mother, who died from breast cancer,” she said. “I chose to sponsor a team competing from Holland to showcase our growth over the years. We began with three riders at an afternoon luncheon and now, in 2019, we are truly an international event featuring 40 Grand Prix riders. We are looking forward to making this year’s Challenge of the Americas our most successful event to date in our quest to help researchers find a cure for breast cancer.”

TEAM MATCHNRIDE
Riders: Otte Arts, Diane Heijmans, Miranda Hoezen, Sylvia van de Broek, Michelle Westerdijk, Renee Zomers, Music: Corinne Latour, Coach: Marieke Verdonk

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.”

Discover Dressage Joins COTA to Advance Dressage while Fighting Breast Cancer

When Challenge of the Americas (COTA) organizer Mary Ross approached Kim Van Kampen, the founder of Discover Dressage, to join in COTA’s fight against breast cancer, Van Kampen thought it was a great idea.

The March 9 Challenge of the Americas features teams of top international dressage riders competing in Grand Prix freestyle quadrilles to benefit breast cancer research, and Discover Dressage is a non-profit organization with the mission to inspire American youth to discover the sport of dressage and support healthy competition.

“When Mary talked to me about ideas for the Challenge, I told her I had a quadrille ready to go,” said Van Kampen, owner of Hampton Green Farm, known for the breeding and promotion of the PRE horse. “For USPRE week, held recently in Wellington, Florida, the girls put together a quadrille on four great geldings and had a lot of fun. I thought adding them to the exhibition line-up before the competition would be an excellent way to support the Challenge. Our all-female musical quadrille made up of talented young women will help create awareness among young people about breast cancer.”

Team members include Kerrigan Gluch, Sarah Roda, Elena Schiefele and Sophia Schults.

The team of Kerrigan Gluch, Sarah Roda, Elena Schiefele and Sophia Schults will ride their own PRE horses or those owned by Hampton Green Farm. They are coached by Maria Lithander.

“It’s very different to ride as a team and it presents unique challenges, but it’s also really fun and rewarding,” Elena Schiefele said. “Since one in eight women develops breast cancer, I think breast cancer research is important not only to those whose lives will be saved, but also to their families and everyone else affected by it.”

Team member Sophia Schults agreed. “Having the opportunity to participate in such an amazing event is unreal and being able to help support such a great cause is a huge honor. The support that both the sport of dressage as well as breast cancer research gains from this event makes a huge difference and I feel very lucky to be a part of both causes.”

Rider Kerrigan Gluch said they had fun creating an entertaining routine and she’s excited to perform it for a worthy cause. “This is my first time being involved with something like the Challenge, so I am very eager to see how it goes. This sport is mostly geared towards competition, so I think it’s great to associate it with breast cancer research. I think good riding, entertaining music, great people – all for a good cause, makes for an awesome night.”