The 2022 Challenge of the Americas presented by The Pink Hats came back to life after a year off for COVID and our record-setting crowd challenged breast cancer like never before. The sold-out grandstand and VIP audience was ready to rock as they cheered top riders and their well-trained horses dancing to the music under the lights at the Global Dressage Festival stadium in Wellington, Florida, March 11.
The horse-and-rider combos began with Team Millar Brooke Farm South, who brought their jumping quadrille to the dressage side for the Challenge of the Americas. Thanks to Kelly Soleau-Millar, Jonathan Millar, Charlotte McLaughlin and Alex Granato for joining us in our fight against breast cancer and for riding out bedecked in pink.
The two dressage pas de deux were beautifully emotional with Shannon Dueck and JJ Tate bringing a message of strength and hope as breast cancer survivors, and Jim Koford and Kerstin Moltmann-Wilder riding in harmony to their poignant “West Side Story” theme.
The eagerly awaiting Grand Prix Musical Quadrille challenge brought together five teams of six horse-and-rider combinations. The star-studded (and colorful!) panel of judges from the USA included 4* judge Lee Tubman, 5* judge Janet Foy and 4* judge Charlotte Bredahl. Their insightful and witty commentary and judging were a hit. Who knew Janet Foy was a rodeo queen in a former life?
Team BioStar’s Hamilton-themed quadrille stole the show and received the first place nod from the judges. Their tightly woven and intricate choreography was fresh and creative as well as expertly ridden. Congratulations to Team BioStar members Lauren Chumley, Jessie Hayes, Jim Koford, Shannon Stevens, JJ Tate and Betsy VanDyke along with coach, choreographer, musical designer and story-teller extraordinaire, Tigger Montague.
Team Wright Dressage’s first-ever COTA quadrille with their boot-scootin’, git-up, toe-tapping music took second place. It was obvious the new kids on the block and their horses were having a blast while their spacing and lines, along with their pink lassos, were impressive. Congratulations to Leif Aho, Vanessa Creech-Terauds, Heidi Degele, Tiago Ernesto, Ali Potasky and Rebecca Waite along with coaches Diane Creech, Patti Thompson and Emily Wright.
Team Winged Foot’s Scottish-theme and costumes had lots of people wondering what they wore underneath those kilts (breeches, y’all) as they rode complicated patterns to favorite Scottish tunes. Tapadh leat (thank you in Gaelic) to team members Todd Flettrich, Bridget Hay, Susanne Hamilton, Justin Hardin, Ashley Madison and Katie Riley, and coaches Emilie Goddard and Ruth Hogan-Poulsen.
Team Gardy Bloemers was off to see the wizard as amazing costumes and familiar music whisked us over the rainbow. There was some fancy footwork in the Land of Oz and we were all impressed by Amy Bock, Nicole Harrington, Lisa Lewis, Amy Walker-Basak, Roberta Williams and Cyndi Wylie as well as coach Alex Rozboril.
Team Purina’s “we are all in this together” theme and accompanying music had people singing in their seats to a seamless medley of favorite tunes and their difficult moves brought applause from the appreciative crowd. Congrats to Alexandra Duncan, Jaralyn Gibson, Bent Jensen, Pam Goodrich, Jennifer Williams and George Williams, and coaches Terry Gallo, Betsy Steiner and Bill Warren.
Our generous sponsors, including our inaugural Pink Hats, were instrumental in making the evening a success. Thanks to The Pink Hats Margaret H. Duprey of Cherry Knoll Farm, Elizabeth (aka Beth) Stauber-Johnson, PhD, and her husband Ron Johnson and Mr. and Mrs. Steffen (Barbara) Wolfe.
From team sponsors to behind the scenes sponsors to donated saddle pads, kilts and bell boots, it took an enormous amount of support from our friends both in and out of the equestrian community to make the 2022 Challenge of the Americas a success.
A village of volunteers also made all the intricate pieces come together into a night to remember. Thanks to the COTA Committee members and the cadre of people who turned out to help us in our fight against breast cancer.
Finally, thanks to all of you. Your overwhelming response to the auction and in support of the teams was amazing. You filled the VIP tent and you packed the grandstands. We appreciate your enthusiastic support you have for the horses and riders.
Most of all, thank you, all of you, for helping us fight breast cancer. With your help, we are than much closer to finding a cure for breast cancer.