NORWAY, Mich. (WZMQ) – Heather Janssen, a beloved mother, daughter, horse trainer, and mentor in the community, continues to make an impact even more than a decade after her passing. The arena at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds now bears her name, a testament to the profound influence she had on others. For the past six years, an annual horse show has been held in her memory, with all proceeds going towards a scholarship fund established in her honor.
Janssen’s unexpected loss still resonates with family, friends, and those who had the privilege of knowing her, even eleven years later. However, her story lives on through individuals like Kelly Madigan, her final student. This year, Madigan, for the first time, is presenting Janssen’s last trained horse in the show.
Madigan shared, “Camilla’s Prince, or Rudy, is his nickname. So it’s really special that he’s able to be here, and even with all the family, we’re having horses that she has past trained. This is the first time they’re coming to the show this year.”
The two-day event continues to grow each year, attracting more participants and spectators. A new feature of this year’s show is a memorial in the center of the arena, paying tribute to Janssen’s deep love for the Arabian breed. The setup is reminiscent of traditional Arabian horse shows seen at the big congress shows for Arabians.
Madigan added, “This is how the triple-A shows, the big congress shows for Arabians, this is how they would set up. So it’s a little different for the horses this year.”
This year’s event marked a special milestone as Janssen’s personal horse, Raymond Reposado, made his debut in the show ring. Liz Minkler, both an exhibitor and one of the show organizers, proudly presented the horse in various pleasure events. Minkler, the horse show’s main organizer, shared that the show continues to see growth each year.
“We’ve done different things, like a liberty which is where we put a horse loose in the arena to music, and have a speech or something, and then we have championship classes. We make sure we get the biggest, beautiful ribbons,” Minkler informed.
The positive impact of Janssen’s legacy was evident in the way she inspired her students, like Madigan, to promote inclusivity among their fellow competitors.
“No matter what barn you come from, we have some people from Iron County, from Escanaba area. People travel, you know, quite a few hours to come to these shows, and we still support them,” Madigan expressed with a warm smile.
Heather Janssen’s circle of friends, like Minkler, continue to organize events in her remembrance, keeping her spirit alive. Minkler informed that countless family and friends have supported the show’s annual growth, and several local businesses have also chipped in.
“We have to hire judges, find people to work the arenas, open and close gates, hand out ribbons, and of course we collect all of our sponsorships to help offset the cost for the show,” stated Minkler.
Flowerland Greenhouse out of Iron Mountain has donated all the flowers to decorate the Memorial, and Mellon Construction, and Pampered Pups on Main also made generous contributions to the show.
“I actually met Heather through my friend Miranda. And I kept my horse at their farm…” Minkler reminisced, her voice filled with fond memories.
The scholarships awarded in Janssen’s memory are given to deserving local students pursuing careers in her main interests: equine, animal sciences, and pharmacy.
As a way to honor Heather Janssen’s legacy, her family is organizing an upcoming fall trail ride, inviting everyone to join in the celebration of her life, and the passions she held dear.
For more information about the Heather Janssen Memorial Horse Show, or other horse shows in the Dickinson County area, visit the Tri-County Horse Association’s Website: