Top Dressage Star Diane Creech Shares Why She Volunteers for the Challenge of the Americas

Diane Creech has been a Canadian fixture in the international dressage arena for decades. She helped Team Canada earn a silver medal at the 2007 Pan Am Games and was the reserve rider for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

She is also a breast cancer survivor.

“I was 44 when I was diagnosed and we had no cancer history in the family, nothing,” said the 59-year-old high-performance dressage rider from Caistor Centre, Ontario. “It was such a shock. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink. I exercise. I mean, where is this coming from?

“I found a lump and I was hemming and hawing and then I did go to the doctor and they reacted very quickly,” she remembered. “They sent me right away to biopsy and it didn’t take long until I was diagnosed. I had Stage 2 B breast cancer.

“I had to go to surgery and have a mastectomy. I’m laying there and I’m like, I really don’t want this. I really don’t want my breast taken off, but I had no other choice. Then, even once that was done, I had chemo and radiation. And then, your hair is starting to grow back and anytime you have a pain anywhere, you think it’s back. You have to learn to deal with that fear.”

With two young children, Diane had to also come to terms with the emotions of realizing how easily she could die.

“You always wonder, am I going see them grow up? It’s a very scary phase that you have to go through,” she said.

Horses Were the Best Therapy

She credits support from family and friends with keeping her going, but what kept her grounded throughout the process were her horses.

“You need to find something that you can lean on a bit,” she said. “And for me, it was the horses; that was my constant thing.”

She went to the barn as often as she could and, even though there were times when she couldn’t work the horses, she would mount up and ride at least one.

“Connecting with the horses is what got me through it. I am still so grateful for my sponsors for working with me. That’s why horses and cancer are linked together for me, I couldn’t have done it without them.”

No Hair? They Don’t Care

“That got me through my chemo and that got me through my radiation and having no hair,” she said. “No hair? They don’t care. Honestly, these animals, they’re so smart and accepting. They knew I could barely get on and they knew they couldn’t buck around. And that really kept me going.”

Further connecting cancer to horses, Diane volunteered as a coach for Team Wright Moves for the 2022 Challenge of the America’s Grand Prix Quadrille Team Challenge and her daughter, Vanessa Creech-Terauds, is one of the riders on the team.

“Doing any kind of fundraiser means the more money we can donate to research,” she said. “If we can just help in any way to find a solution to one of the biggest problems that people die from, then we all win together. I think this kind of fundraiser brings it all together and connecting the horses and cancer is like one thing for me. They helped get me though.”

Diane said that in Ontario she has two students she’s been coaching since they were little girls and they have been a big part of her breast cancer fundraising.

“They’ve been doing the same breast cancer pink ribbon ride for years,” she said. “Now they are women; they have families of their own and they still do it. We always support each other. It’s a small community and not everybody has a lot of money to give, but everybody gives a little bit.

“And it’s not just about the money. I think it’s also about everybody getting together to support each other like what we are doing for the Challenge of the Americas. For me, it felt like my world had stopped and I was holding my breath; I couldn’t have done it without the help of others.

“I’ve been lucky and so far so good. Once I got sick, I said to myself, ‘I’m refusing to become a statistic. I am not doing that.’ The thing is to try to get yourself to the point where you say, ‘OK I have cancer, but it doesn’t mean that cancer has me.’”

Meet the 2022 Team Sponsors

These generous Team Sponsors have the fun of calling a team their own while helping to support breast cancer research through Play for P.I.N.K. Read on to find out why each of them support the Challenge of the Americas.

“I think breast cancer research may be one of the single most important things we can do to actually survive the disease and defeat the disease.

And I’ve been especially affected by one of the riders on my team, JJ Tate. Her story is wrenching and courageous. And it’s inspired me even more to really make the team great this year to raise more money, to inspire more people to donate to a cause that affects all of us. All of us.”
– Tigger Montague, Owner – BioStar

Jim Koford, Lauren Chumley, JJ Tate, Shannon Stevens, Jessie Hayes, Betsy Van Dyke. Coach: Tigger Montague

“I have been supporting the Challenge of the Americas for several years and I hope to continue doing so.

Cancer has touched a lot of my close family, including my father’s mother who died from breast cancer, so I’m very supportive of the need to fund more research.

Finally, this event is spectator-friendly and an approachable and a fun way for people to become exposed to the sport and perhaps generate further interest in dressage.”
– Gardy Bloemers, Wealth Management Advisor

Riders: Nicole Harrington, Lisa Lewis, Cindi Wylie, Roberta Williams, Amy Walker-Basak, Amy Bock. Coach: Alex Rozboril

“Winged Foot Enterprises is honored to be a small part of this year’s Challenge the Americas! We are dedicated to helping BCRF by sponsoring our team’s performance, in what we feel is one of the most unique and beautiful Play for P.I.N.K. fundraisers of the year. Bringing together art, sport, horses and their dedicated dressage professionals for this worthy cause is thrilling for us. 

Our deepest thanks to all involved in this beautiful evening of poetry in motion under the lights at The Global Dressage Arena.”
– Kathleen Dunagan

Riders: Bridget Hay, Katie Riley, Justin Hardin, Susanne Hamilton, Todd Flettrich, Ashley Madison. Coach: Ruth Hogan-Poulsen

“Purina has been supporting the Challenge of the Americas for 15 or 16 years. It’s so unique and its our favorite event. It brings together the people, the horses, the cause and the community.

People seem to be so engaged. Interest may begin because of the horses but then there’s another connection. They are there for more than entertainment because it’s personal for so many people. I think it’s fabulous.”
– Shiela Conde, Sales Specialist and Equine Consultant

Riders: George Williams, Pamela Goodrich, Bent Jensen, Jennifer Williams, Alexandra Duncan, Jaralyn Gibson. Coaches: Terry Gallo, Bill Warren, Betsy Steiner

“I lost my grandmother to breast cancer as a young girl and have always supported the cause, but it wasn’t until Patti volunteered me to ride on a quadrille team that I learned of the tremendous support given to COTA by both the riders and community.

My horse isn’t quite ready for this year’s Challenge, but partnering-up with Patti to sponsor a team gives me the chance to not only join the fight but to also honor my grandmother’s memory. Research is the key to end breast cancer.”
– Emily Wright

“A good friend of mine got me involved in the Challenge of the Americas. She drove me to a COTA meeting, and I was so impressed when I saw how dedicated everyone was to the cause I knew this was something I wanted to be part of.

I’ve known many people who have been affected by breast cancer and helping to raise funds for research is a great feeling. Research is the only way we can gain the knowledge to prevent and ultimately find a cure for this vicious disease.”
Patti Thompson

Ali Potaski, Tiago Ernesto, Rebecca Waite, Heidi Degele, Vanessa Creech-Terauds, Leif Aho, Coaches: Diane Creech, Emily Wright, Patti Thompson

Riders and coaches are practicing their moves and planning their music for the 2022 Challenge. They all have someone in their lives who has been impacted by this disease and this is their own special way to make a difference and challenge breast cancer.

Special thanks to videographer Carmen Franco and team videographers for sharing their time, talent and cell phone memory.

Breast cancer is a complex disease with no simple solution. Research is the key to stopping it in its tracks. The Challenge of the Americas is committed to finding a cure and proceeds from this event benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation® through Play for P.I.N.K.®

Will you be a part of the 2022 Challenge and help find a cure?

Friday, March 11, 2022

Global Dressage Festival Showgrounds
13500 Southshore Blvd.
Wellington, Florida 33414


The Challenge of the Americas is grateful to these fantastic individuals who have banded together as COTA’s presenting sponsors, The Pink Hats. With their help and yours, we are funding vital research in our quest to find a cure for breast cancer.

Margaret H. Duprey

Margaret H. Duprey of Cherry Knoll Farm has been a long-time supporter of the Challenge of the Americas (COTA). Not only has she been an Honorary Chair of the event, but she also served on the COTA Board.

“It is an organization I have supported for years,” she said. Duprey has family and friends who suffered from breast cancer and she’s a firm believer in helping fund vital research through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. “I think that with any of these horrible diseases, the more we learn and understand about them, the faster we’ll find a cure.”

Duprey is also a dressage rider and said the event’s iconic dressage quadrille challenge helps bring focus to the cause. “It brings awareness to the community and to the world because Wellington is such an international equestrian destination this time of year.

“This event is important to everybody,” she continued. “The Challenge helps fund the research that helps the doctors try to understand the causes of breast cancer and why some forms of cancer are more aggressive than others. The science has advanced so much in how to treat the disease and we need to continue with the advancement.”

Duprey is adamant that the entire Wellington community should support the Challenge of the Americas.

“You know, everybody should come! It’s a fun evening and they’ll have a good time–all while benefiting breast cancer research.”

A. Ronald Johnson and Elizabeth Stauber-Johnson, Ph.D

Elizabeth (aka Beth) Stauber-Johnson and her husband Ron have supported the Challenge of the Americas (COTA) since 2018, and in 2022 they upped the game by becoming founding members of The Pink Hats.

COTA’s cause hits close to home for Beth and Ron: both of their mothers died from complications of breast cancer.

“It takes people who have a huge impact on our lives: our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters,” Beth said. “It kills. People who have an irreplaceable relationship with us–that’s the people it takes.

“It is not a lesson in intelligence when confronted by the insidious, wicked and vile killer,” she continued. “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.”

Not only was their familial connection to breast cancer a reason for the couple’s keen interest in the Challenge of the Americas, but Beth said her mother’s affection for Beth’s horses is another link to the event. An avid breeder and the owner of the successful Appendix Quarter Horse Larks Home Run, Beth and her mother shared their love of horses.

“She was scared to death of them but she loved being in the barn,” Beth remembers. “God bless all who fought and are no longer able, and all those who fought and have survived. I will always be proud of my Mom never giving up. Never, never.”

Mr. & Mrs. Steffen Wolff

Barbara Wolfe became interested in supporting the Challenge of the Americas when she met event organizer Mary Ross. They boarded their horses at the same Wellington barn.

“And from day one, I just got such a huge kick out of her,” she said, adding that the first Challenge she attended was held in White Fences in Loxahatchee, Florida, when the event was in its infancy. It was a hot but lovely day and loads of fun.

“I’m just so grateful to Mary for doing this,” she said. “She puts her heart and soul into this in honor of her mother. I love the event and it happens to be a wonderful, wonderful philanthropy.”

Barbara is a breast cancer survivor and believes there are many other survivors who would not be alive today without the help of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Interestingly, her mother and grandmother’s generation weren’t diagnosed with the disease but family members in her generation have been. “I lost my sister to it a couple of years ago,” she said. Her cousin and her cousin’s daughter were also diagnosed with breast cancer.

In Barbara’s case, it was found very early. Through testing, she learned that, although the tumor was small and caught early, it was extremely aggressive. She credits well-funded research with her diagnosis and successful treatment.

Barbara’s advice is simple, “Everybody should get their mammograms.” Her sister didn’t keep up with annual mammograms and she found out too late. “She just didn’t do it. She didn’t do it.”