Almost exactly one year after losing his dear friend and longtime groom Crystal Lee to cervical cancer, Jim Koford will return to Dressage Under the Stars to raise money in the fight against the disease.

“This is a cause that is very near to me because of Crystal,” he said. “Every one of the most memorable experiences or biggest moments I had in dressage, she was always there. You just miss someone like that. She was so important.”

After all of the times that Crystal stuck by his side for the long hours and days of horse shows, it was a no-brainer to be by her side as she fought her battle with cervical cancer.

“This time a year ago, she was in her final days. Last Christmas I wasn’t with my family, I was with Crystal. You do what you have to do,” he recalled. “I have other clients dealing with this terrible disease now too. It’s so ubiquitous. Anything we can all do as a community is crucial.”

Jim will be debuting a new freestyle at the event aboard a new horse, Adiah HP owned by Sherry Koella.

“We just finished up all the music choices and then I get the choreography, and then we have to film and send everything off to the studio. So we’re in the middle of editing, but it’s a new horse and a new freestyle, so I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

He plans to use the opportunity not only to raise funds for a cause that is close to his heart, but also as a bit of schooling for the horse.

“This horse is quite special to me and I think this will be a good opportunity to get her a little more seasoned in front of a crowd.”

The crowd at Dressage Under the Stars is so supportive, Jim explained, and there aren’t many opportunities to school in a competition setting under the lights with a big audience. In 2012, Jim made waves at the event on Grand Prix superstar Rhett, riding in a Batman costume.

“Rhett was green and was affected by atmosphere so I did Dressage Under the Stars as a chance to ride at night under the lights with people clapping along to the music and making a commotion, and I won’t have five international judges sitting there watching me. So when they asked me if I wanted to do it, I immediately said, ‘I absolutely do!’”

Dressage Under the Stars Cancer Challenge presented by Invictus Farm will take place Feb. 1 at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club. Learn more about DUTS and purchase tickets here: . 

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