PARIS, Mo. – “The more the merrier. The bigger the better.” That’s the attitude Julann and Mike McLaughlin used to grow Monroe County 4-H’s horsemanship project for more than a quarter of a century.
The McLaughlins will be inducted into the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame at the Missouri State Fair, Aug. 9 at 3 p.m. in Sedalia. Fifty-four inductees from 41 counties will be named to the 2014 Hall of Fame during the fair, said Rachel Augustine, University of Missouri Extension 4-H Foundation associate director of development.
The 4-H horsemanship group quadrupled in size when the McLaughlins lent their expertise to it. The group started with 4-H members from Monroe County clubs. Before long, 4-H’ers from Shelby, Randolph, Audrain, Ralls and Boone counties joined the group.
No strangers to 4-H, Mike and Julann showed horses against each other when they were 4-H members in nearby counties. They wrote letters to each other while he was in the armed forces and she was in college.
They married in 1969 and opened McLaughlin Performance Horses at the edge of Paris, the county seat of Monroe County.
Following in their parents’ footsteps, their sons joined 4-H. “When they joined, we joined,” Julann says.
They involved members and their parents from northeastern Missouri in horsemanship projects. Because many of the participants traveled from adjoining counties, a carry-in supper was held before each three-hour weekly meeting.
Children and leaders ate first. This allowed parents to form friendships, bond and become involved in their child’s project.
The McLaughlins built confidence in young people by giving them horsemanship skills, knowledge and opportunities to compete.
When they began the Monroe County 4-H horsemanship project, members rode on the town’s baseball field. Baler twine outlined the arena’s boundaries.
The need for a larger arena grew. Seven clubs in the county received renewable grants for supplies to build one of the best arenas in the state. 4-H members and their families furnished labor and continue to maintain the Paris Horse Arena today. “It was a big community effort,” Julann remembers.
Many former members have careers involving horses—whether it be in the saddle industry, teaching, sales or working directly with horses.
The McLaughlins retired from 4-H leadership in 2008 to spend more time with children and grandchildren. Their son Jay is a world-renowned horseman and general manager and head trainer of Aaron Ranch in Commerce, Texas. Son Curt is a chaplain at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Missouri.
They continue to lead hectic business lives. They travel across the country with their mobile store, work their Internet business, and keep the brick-and-mortar McLaughlin Western Store, established in 1982, open five days a week.
They know that the benefits of 4-H membership are lifelong. Julann recalls a job reference inquiry about a former 4-H member. The business owner said, “If anyone excels in 4-H, I know they are excellent leaders, can get the job done and they can speak.” The 4-H member landed the job and went on to become vice president of the saddle company.
It’s just one example, she said, of how 4-H members shine because of skills learned early in life. “If you want to get something done, get a 4-H’er. They are going to succeed in life,” she said.