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The 11th Annual Mid-America Signature Horse Show found its way this year to a new location in Camp Lake, Wisconsin. Previously held in Wayne, IL, show manager Joy Meierhans had difficulty securing dates at the Wayne location, and discovered the versatile Silverwood Farm, conveniently located just north of the Illinois state line in Wisconsin, as the perfect alternative.

Silverwood Farm is in an ideal spot to attract area stables, and indeed it did, boasting a great turnout from Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. But location is just part of the reason exhibitors enjoy coming to this show. Hospitality plays a major role at any show, and certainly the Signature Staff could not be more accommodating. The July heat in the Midwest can wreak havoc on exhibitors and horses, and the staff is always making sure everyone is taking necessary precautions. Joy Meierhans cruises the grounds passing out bananas to everyone before they ride, and bottled water is handed to each exhibitor at the out gate. The daytime and early evening schedule were originally adopted because outdoor ring lighting was not available, but show management seized the opportunity to incorporate several parties into the nightime to further entertain the exhibitors.

The parties this year had to play a close second, however, to the entertainment provided in the trainers' equitation class. The last class on Friday night, the trainers' equitation class has perhaps become the most competitive class of the horse show. Each year several trainers strive to strut their stuff in their finest equitation fashion. This class is not merely for the fun of it.....the $1000 first place prize money has played a key role determining just how seriously everyone rides. This year, the class was taken to a new level by trainer, John Willis, a/k/a "Juanita" Willis. Yes, John Willis, dressed in formal riding attire, complete with bun and top hat competed as a lovely female equitation rider. Perhaps the only thing funnier than John was the crowd, and judge Melissa Moore when they determined "Juanita's" identity! To keep the fun rolling, judge Moore required a workout of all the riders in the class. Performing in numerical order, trainer Scott Matton was proudly the first to correctly perform the workout. Scott received a standing ovation for being the first to follow directions and grumbled only slightly when required to drop his irons and trot back to the lineup! Still unable to determine a winner, judge Moore required an exchange of horses between Amanda Simpson and Tom Thorpe. When the shouting was over, Amanda was declared the winner of the $1000 and a beautiful traveling trophy donated by last year's winner, Bob Griffin.

To prove good sportsmanship, "Juanita" retired from the equitation ranks and sent John Willis to host a great exhibitor's party at his beautiful nearby stables in Bristol, Wisconsin. The new 36 stall training facility with white fenced adjacent pastures was the perfect setting for the lovely outdoor buffet provided by John and his customers. On Saturday evening, the horse show committee provided another after-the-show party, and a plentiful Sunday brunch was served prior to the Sunday morning performance.

Plans are already in the works to enlarge the arena at Silverwood Farm for next year's show. With the ample stabling and the unbeatable hospitality, this delightful show is bound to remain an area favorite! Highlights from the show follow.

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