The 2023 Challenge of the Americas presented by The Pink Hats was a rousing success and, with the help of a sold-out audience and a cavalcade of sponsors and hard-working volunteers, we knocked the pink socks off our previous record amount raised for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through Play for P.I.N.K. Appreciative attendees clapped, sang along and cheered as top riders and their well-trained horses danced to choreographed music under the lights at the Global Dressage Festival stadium in Wellington, Florida, March 10, all to help find a cure for breast cancer.
The Challenge of the Americas would not be possible without the help of our generous sponsors and tireless volunteers. Thanks to The Pink Hats Amy Bozzone, Margaret H. Duprey of Cherry Knoll Farm, Elizabeth (aka Beth) Stauber-Johnson, Ph.D,, and her husband Ron Johnson, and Mr. and Mrs. Steffen (Barbara) Wolfe. We can’t forget the team sponsors and those who donated everything from saddle pads to costumes to bell boots to practice arenas.
A village of volunteers wove the intricate pieces of the Challenge into a night to remember. From the top riders, talented choreographers, eagle-eyed coaches, hard-working grooms, and the horses who thrive on the applause to the artistic florists, non-stop auction set-up crew, performance night snack providers, COTA Committee members, and a myriad of helpers the night of the event, COTA relies on an army of single-minded people intent on challenging breast cancer.
Team Millar Brooke Farm took a group of Top Gun minis on a mission as the little jumpers were lead on a “highway to the danger zone.” The pilots, captained by Jonathon Millar, wore flight jackets and the minis maneuvered difficult jumps (for them, anyway) to the delight of the crowd. Other flight captains included Alex Granato, Cayden Hill and Gabi Zupancic. Head dispatcher Tigger Montague created the flight path choreography and music for the mighty minis.
Lauren Chumley and Jessie Hayes, clad in gold lamé, skillfully navigated a perfectly synced pas de deux on mis-matched mares in size, color and gait to the delight of the crowd. The horses and riders were in boot-touching proximity as they danced to a medley of fun music and choreography created by Tigger Montague. “What a Wonderful World” was a great way to kick-off the evening and the multiple high-fives between the riders made us so, so happy.
Team BioStar won the 2023 Grand Prix Quadrille Challenge for the second year in a row with a swanky nod to the Roaring 20s. Their choreography and music by coach Tigger Montague was the bees knees as Lauren Chumley, Jessie Hayes, Jim Koford, Kymberly Pullen, Shannon Stevens and Betsy Van Dyke performed some difficult moves in tight formation and their hotsy-totsy flapper and gangster costumes were some spiffy glad rags. From “Me and My Shadow“ to “Diamonds’ Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” Team BioStar was the cat’s pajamas.
Team Wright Dressage kicked off the Grand Prix Quadrille Challenge and we had a feeling the night was going to be a good night as they took us back to prom with pink tulle dresses and horses bedecked in pink bowties and boutonnieres. Choreographers Diane Creech and Vanessa Creech-Terauds created a fun quadrille pattern for riders Mary Lauritsen, Ali Potasky, Vanessa Creech-Terauds, Tara Stegen, Rebecca Waite and Emily Wright. Coaches Patti Thompson and Diane Creech helped the team navigate the pattern and Collier Wimmer created a nostalgic musical mix as horses and the all-female team of riders were true “Dancing Queens” as they pirouetted in time to the music.
Team Winged Foot went down to Mardi Gras town as they “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” which is Cajun French for “Let the good times roll.” Team members Todd Flettrich, Vincent Flores, Susanne Hamilton, Nicole Harrington, Sarah Hirosh and Amy-Speck Kern were decked out in tailcoats in traditional Mardi Gras hues of purple, green and gold as their horses sported Mardi Gras beads braided into their manes. Spectators took a trip down the Mighty Mississip’ to New Orleans while enjoying the choreography and music by coaches Ruth Hogan-Poulsen and Emilie Goddard.
It was all about dancing through the decades for Team Merrill Lynch/Gardy Bloemers who were outfitted in matching custom-made pink shirts with lots of glitter and glam. The choreography created by Alex Rozboril was paired with music mixed by Colombia’s Carlos Agüera that evoked the art of dance–perfect for dancing horses and their riders. Team members Camilla Fritze, Michelle Gibson, Lisa Lewis, Karen Lipp, Kerstin Moltmann-Wilder and Amy Walker-Basak rode in unison to “Just Dance” and “Dancing With Myself” under the direction of coaches Amy Bock and Alex Rozboril.
“Oh, What a Night” it was as velvet smoking jacket-clad Team Purina had us crooning along with the Jersey Boys. We were mesmerized by the team’s smooth moves and couldn’t take our eyes off the fluid choreography created by Terry Ciotti Gallo, who was also the musical mixer and coach along with coaches Betsy Steiner and Bill Warren. Team members Jaralyn Gibson, Pam Goodrich, Bent Jensen, George Williams, Jennifer Williams and Benjamin Winger were just too good to be true and we loved them, baby.
Thank you, all of you, for making the 2023 Challenge of the Americas the premier event of the Wellington winter season while helping find a cure for breast cancer.