The 2019 Challenge of the Americas teams put lots of time, talent and energy into making their quadrilles a success. From practicing their timing to perfecting their patterns, the professional riders, choreographers, music mixers, coaches and support staff strive to bring the audience unparalleled entertainment in support of a worthy cause.
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 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!”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”