Harrisburg teenager fights for chance to show mule

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HARRISBURG - 15-year-old Mariah Murphy just wanted to show her mule in the Missouri State Fair, but she ended up sparking a campaign to change state fair rules.

"It's just insane. I never expected it to take off like this. It's incredible to see how much it has affected everybody," Murphy said.

Murphy planned to show the mule in the 4-H/FFA show. Murphy has shown her mule, Esther, at many other 4-H shows and open shows for years. However, the state fair board told her she cannot show her mule in the horse show.

The 4-H rules allow Murphy to show a mule in shows. However, it is against state fair rules to show a mule with the horses.  

"This was the first year where I really thought I was ready to be able to compete against those girls. So it's really disappointing to not be able to and it really feels like 4-H has kind of let us down," Murphy said. 

Murphy immediately started working to appeal the decision. She gathered support from show coordinators, judges, exhibitors and trainers to make her case. A Facebook page was created and support letters, emails and messages poured in. In three days, 1,000 people liked the Facebook page. 

Tricia Murphy, Mariah's mother, said the community support has carried the family through the battle.

"It's been amazing. I had no idea. You never know how much people care until you go through something like this," Tricia Murphy said.

Despite the support, the fair board voted to deny her appeal, saying it feared the move would damage the fair's reputation. 

"The commission felt that to change the rules at this time would be unfair to other youth who may have otherwise also entered mules in this week's competition," the board said in a statement. 

The commission also said it is now considering changing the rule for next year's fair. 

"Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe will be asking this committee to consider the request to add mules to our 4-H and FFA show in 2015." 

Mariah Murphy simply hopes her struggle allows better opportunities for herself and others in the future.

"I just hope that we can get it changed. There's other kids I know that might be interested in showing here and it's really disappointing when you can't show," Mariah Murphy said. "There's a lot of good mules out there and there are lots of kids who show good mules. And if you can just get it out there that you can show, we're fighting an uphill battle anyway...I just hope it brings awareness that it can be done."