Wellington, FL specializes in combining fundraisers and equestrian activities during winter season, and this past Friday night there was one more reason to gather for a good cause during the annual Challenge of the Americas.

It’s not hard to tell from the pink theme that COTA benefits the fight against breast cancer – more specifically the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This event usually features dressage freestyles and quadrille competition between nations. This year’s edition also featured a show jumping four bar competition that pitted the sexes against each other.

I’m used to watching polo games at the International Polo Club in Wellington, but for COTA, dressage horses and jumpers took over under portable lights. With the four bar held just before sunset, it made for a beautiful, exhibition-like atmosphere in front of the polo grandstand. Laura Kraut, Pablo Barrios, Paulo Santana and Todd Minikus were just some of the show jumpers who came together to participate.

I watched the four bar competition – the riders jumped a grid up to a height of 1.60m- and while I had to leave before the dressage freestyles began, I caught those riders warming up and practicing their routines. Enjoy the photos!

1IMG_0018It was a beautiful Florida evening on Friday – you can’t beat this winter weather!

2IMG_0017The IPC grandstand filled up….

IMG_0016…and the jumper riders trotted over to center field.

IMG_0052Of course, center field meant a gymnastic of fences on this evening. Todd Minikus jumped down the line during the opening round

IMG_0075Laura Kraut also jumped the four bar…

IMG_0119But it was Claudia Billups who really shone. She jumped all four rounds clear!

IMG_0130Mason Phelps gave the last jump some perspective before it was raised a final time.

IMG_0165There’s Claudia over the final, 1.60m vertical

IMG_0170The show jumpers lined up for congratulations – the women won!

IMG_0177On the other side of the field, there was some intense preparation happening.

IMG_0183Are we eyeing the competition??

IMG_0199Is it just me or does this horse’s star match the rider’s lapel?

IMG_0208I┬ádon’t know much about dressage, but this did not look easy!

IMG_0213The teams practiced for weeks before the competition

IMG_0215Looking good guys

mIMG_0201All for a good cause