It was a beautiful evening at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, where Team International The Seley Parker Group of Merrill Lynch performed a stunning quadrille under the lights at this years Challenge of the Americas. The Challenge of the Americas is an annual fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and is sponsored by the International Polo Club Palm Beach and SSG Gloves. Team International beat Team USA by just half point, with Team International scoring a 95.5 over Team USA’s 95.0. The teams were judged on impact on the audience, spacing and alignment, choreography interpretation, and harmony.
Team Purina Mills USA featured Betsy Steiner riding Sentimiento owned by Tamara Gerber, Pamela Goodrich riding Lamborghini owned by Jocelyn Wiese, Chris Hickey riding Al Pacino owned by Jennifer Huber, George Williams riding Marnix owned by Joann Smith, James Koford riding Don Princite owned by Maryanne Haymon, and John Zopatti riding Mitchell.
The winning team completed passages, tempi changes, half passes, and pirouettes all in perfect harmony with one another. They performed to an original melody of rock ‘n roll music. The opening song was Come Sail Away by Styx, followed by Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith. The team also used songs by The Beatles, Journey, Steve Winwood, and John Denver.
“I am very happy and very excited. It is a new group of horses and the lights and the sound were a surprise for them in the beginning.” explained Marco Bernal, a member of Team International. “Then the horses came into the routine and started to settle down. The more we rode the better it got, so it was a nice feeling.”
He continued, “I liked the choreography. There was a good degree of difficulty and I think we got it. At the end, we got the points that we needed, so every thing was very good and I really love performing.”
“It was a lot of fun for all of us because the team got along so well and every practice was a great chance for a bunch of friends to get together,” smiled Team International member Heather Bender. “It gave us a very good excuse for us to get together and have something fun to do in a very crazy time. If we didn’t have such a worthwhile cause to support we might not be here because we are all so busy and you can think of a thousand reasons not to do it, but we had a great time and it is great to be able to do something that helps promote such a worthy cause.”
Team member Shannon Dueck has participated three times and added, “It is kind of personal for me because my mom is fighting breast cancer right now. The first two times I participated that was not that case, but it is a woman’s disease primarily and now it has become very personal. I am really happy to help in any way I can.”
In addition to the Team Quadrille performances the night featured many other exhibitions, including a freestyle by Jane Hannigan entitled “For the Girls,” a tribute to breast cancer survivors. Hannigan rode her horse Maksymilian to music by women who have been touched by breast cancer such as Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Lopez, and Anastacia.
The evening’s other exhibitions included “A Salute to America” freestyle, performed by Susan Jaccoma aboard Donatella, a dressage and reining exhibition by Pamela Goodrich and Jon Ingram, and a Pas de Deux performed by Olympians Ashley Holzer and Courtney King-Dye.
After the night’s competition and awards ceremony guests proceeded to the elegant Challenge Gala for a fun night of dinner and dancing. The Gala was sponsored by the Hampton Green Farm, and featured a silent auction with riding lessons offered by top dressage trainers such as Michael Barisone, Jane Hannigan, and George Williams. This year’s Gala offered a fun evening for all in attendance.
“I’m thrilled with the success of this year’s Challenge. The Challenge teams and the exhibitioners did a fabulous job and the crowd had a wonderful time,” said Chairman Mary Ross. “It is wonderful that we can come together to help fight breast cancer and raise money for such a good cause.”
For more information on Challenge of the Americas, please visit www.challengeoftheamericas.com.