Last updated: July 23. 2014 4:55PM - 1895 Views
By - ncooke@civitasmedia.com



Submitted photoMariah Murphy, 16, of Harrisburg, and her mule, Esther, have competed in several 4-H horse shows this summer, but will not be allowed to compete in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America Horse Show at the Missouri State Fair, which starts today. They will instead be competing in the Fair's Mule Show in a few weeks.
Submitted photoMariah Murphy, 16, of Harrisburg, and her mule, Esther, have competed in several 4-H horse shows this summer, but will not be allowed to compete in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America Horse Show at the Missouri State Fair, which starts today. They will instead be competing in the Fair's Mule Show in a few weeks.
Story Tools:

Font Size:

Social Media:

Mariah Murphy just wanted to show her mule, Esther, at the upcoming Missouri State Fair in the 4-H and Future Farmers of America Horse Show, but things got a little complicated.


Murphy, 16, of Harrisburg, chose to show Esther as her 4-H project four years ago, and since then Esther has been shown at dozens of horse shows in Missouri. The pair was even awarded the Molly Thomas Bowden Sportsmanship Award during the Boone County Fair on Sunday, an award that honors fallen Columbia Police Department Officer Molly Bowden, a former 4-H member.


After four years of county fairs, Murphy, who is president of the Adventurers 4-H club, decided to “take the plunge” and enter the Missouri State Fair.


“Everyone shows in 4-H shows and the ultimate goal is to make it to the state fair show,” she said. “It’s famous for having incredible competition at this show. Everybody shoots to go for it. I did 4-H for four years because I didn’t feel ready to compete at that level, but I decided to take the plunge this year.”


After turning in the needed paperwork by the deadline, Murphy was contacted last Wednesday by a Fair official who notified her that Esther would not be permitted to participate in the Horse Show, which starts today and runs through Saturday.


“Wednesday I got the call that I was not eligible to compete because I was showing a mule,” Murphy said. “They were very abrupt with it, not exactly sympathetic, and they didn’t want to show me why I couldn’t show. They were very persistent it’s not allowed.”


The confusion started because Esther has always been shown in 4-H horse shows. On the Missouri 4-H Project Horse Enrollment Form Information it states “Definition of project horse: Horse or mule that is either owned or leased by a 4-H member for use in their project.” Murphy and her family were under the impression Esther would be allowed to compete in the 4-H Horse Show at the state fair because of that definition, but the rules are different once competitors reach the state level.


In the General Rules and Regulations section of the Missouri State Fair Premium Guide, it states “Exhibitors are only allowed to enter animals that represent the section/category they are entering (such as a mule in the mule show or Angus beef cattle in Angus beef cattle show); no other animals qualify.”


“Our rules clearly state mules enter mule shows, beef cattle enter beef cattle shows,” said Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe. “4-H has never allowed mules in horse shows. Most county shows aren’t big enough to have a separate mule show so they compete with the horses, but this show is huge, we’ve got well over 300 entries for this. 4-H has taken this stance and turned them away before.


“(Murphy) sent her entry in, and it was not accepted. I have no problem with mules being involved, but 4-H has to change the rules and there are no categories or classes for them since they haven’t shown them in the past.”


As word continues to spread about Murphy and Esther’s situation, her family has received an outpouring of support, including a Facebook page — Support Esther the Mule — which has more than 1,600 likes as of Wednesday, and a petition to the Missouri State Fair Commission on Change.org, which has almost 1,000 signatures.


“I’m president of my club, I follow all the rules, my whole family worked hard at this, and it’s disappointing they’re trying to outlaw her,” Murphy said. “She can do anything a horse can. There’s no difference.”


After speaking with Wolfe several times over the past week via phone, Murphy and her family attended a commission meeting Monday in an attempt to overturn the decision, but the Commission decided to keep the ruling as is.


Because Missouri 4-H rules state Esther is considered a horse — Murphy noted Esther is technically of the horse species, since mules are a hybrid of a horse and a donkey and don’t have their own species — Murphy and her family saw the situation as a matter of interpreting the rules. However, the state fair’s rule comes from recommendations from 4-H and FFA at the state level.


“We meet every fall with 4-H and FFA and take their recommendations, and then the commission votes on the recommendations,” Wolfe said. “I’m quite positive we’ll make an adjustment this fall, but we did not have that in place this year. 4-H has specified no crossover species.”


Rumors have circulated that Esther isn’t allowed to compete with horses because she might “spook” them, and Wolfe said that statement did not come from Fair officials, nor did it have anything to do with the decision.


“No one hated saying no more than I did, but if we changed rules mid-stream, this takes all year long to put this together. If we were to change the rule, then how many kids who read the rules and didn’t enter, wouldn’t have been able to enter?” Wolfe said. “There was no way for us to fairly to change that rule, and we decided to not change the rule at this late of date.”


Esther did qualify for the state fair mule show, which runs during the fair. While it doesn’t look like spectators will be seeing Esther in this week’s horse show, she and Murphy could be making an appearance next year. Because of their persistence, Wolfe said he will be bringing up the issue when the commission meets with 4-H and FFA this fall.


“It comes down to, are you going to break your own rules and is it fair for everyone else?” Wolfe said. “I hate she won’t get to show like she might have at other shows at the state level, but we’d be happy to discuss that in the fall.”


Comments
comments powered by Disqus



Featured Businesses


Poll



Info Minute



Gas Prices

Sedalia Gas Prices provided by GasBuddy.com