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Meet the 22 MA VHRC Competitors, Part 2

WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA, October 31, 2022 – Sponsored by Nutrena, the Versatile Horse & Rider Competition returns this fall to the coliseum at the Eastern States Exposition on Friday, November 11, from 1 to 5 pm. This year, 25 horse and rider pairs will traverse our obstacle course and race the clock to see who will win the title of the 2022 Massachusetts Versatile Horse & Rider champions.

Every obstacle is designed to test communication between horse and rider as well as each competitor’s horsemanship skills and athletic prowess. Their efforts will be evaluated by our celebrity judge, Scott Purdum; narrated by our emcee, Steve Lantvit; and applauded by an audience of excited fans.

The champions will win $2,500 in cash and a champion rosette, while reserve, third, and fourth will take home rosettes and cash prizes of $1,500, $1,000, and $500, respectively. Fifth through tenth will take home rosettes.

We introduced our first five competitors here. Ready to meet the next five?

Olivia Giuffrida and Tiny, 8 year old Clydesdale cross mare

Olivia has owned Tiny for three years. When the pair first came together, they were starting from scratch. Olivia says she didn’t have a clear direction for their journey together, but it was clear that they both liked trying new things and learning together. Three years later, they’re excited to be competing in the VHRC because versatility is one of the disciplines they enjoy most.

Danielle Gauvin and Put A Little Pep In Your Step, 18 year old American Quarter Horse gelding

For more than nine years, Danielle and “Pep” have done everything together, from simple trail rides, ponying horses, an introduction to mounted cowboy shooting, barrel runs, western games, visiting nursing homes during COVID, hunters/jumpers, and eventing. Pep is a very willing mount who will always give his all and then some. With every new thing, Pep always exceeds expectations. Together, Danielle and Pep have many barrel racing accomplishments including their most recent title as 2022 Woodstock Fair Barrel Classic Champions, as well as their accomplishments in past years, including being the Woodstock Barrel Classic Champions for the last 7 years, multiple years qualifying for state championships in their barrel runs, and qualifying for the world show in barrel racing. Last year, Danielle and Pep had their first attempt at the Equine Affaire Versatile Horse Competition and were ribboned winners. This year, they are hoping to come back and show what they have learned and worked on in the last year to improve their versatility.

Denise Spender and Oliver, 7 year old Thoroughbred gelding

Denise Spender and Oliver hail from Coventry, Rhode Island. They’ve been together for four years and enjoy riding in both English and Western disciplines.

Carolyn Weeks and Mr Spoc, 10 year old Mustang gelding

Carolyn and Mr. Spoc have been together for the last eight years, competing in various horse events, camping, trail riding, and driving. Carolyn, who’s also a barefoot trimmer, a barn manager, and a school bus driver, says Mr. Spoc is one of the sweetest horses she has ever worked and that he has a great sense of humor and a desire to please. Carolyn has been working with horses since she was seventeen years old and learned how to trim and train when she was in her mid-twenties.

Nichole Grunert and Passing In Style, a 20 year old Thoroughbred gelding

Nichole discovered “Portobello” at a barn near her home. He was a rescue from an auction and covered in fungus – which is exactly how he got his name. They’ve been together for thirteen years now and have participated in myriad disciplines, including gymkhanas, dressage, Western pleasure, equitation, and hunter classes. Together, Nichole and Portobello earned many high point overall grand/reserve championships, have placed fourth in a previous VHRC, and have shown in the Hampton Classic Horse Show. In 2021, Nichole nearly lost Portobello to a foramen entrapment colic, but he’s made a full recovery.

“This was our first year back to showing together and he has done nothing but give his all,” Nichole says. “This horse is my diamond in the [rough], and I am forever grateful to call him mine.”

Are you excited yet? We’ve got fifteen more competitors to introduce to you before November 11th gets here. Watch this page for all the updates, then plan on attending the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, on November 11th, from 1-5 pm in the US Equestrian Arena in the coliseum, to see who will win!


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