In Memory: Polly Bee

August 21st, 2019

Exhibitor, breeder, and past AMHA Director Polly Bee died on July 28, 2019 at age 93. Polly grew up in Niles, Ohio, where her love of horses began. After serving in the U.S. Nurse Cadet Corps during World War II, she attended the Cleveland School of Art, honing her talent as a painter and cartoonist. She later graduated from California State University Sacramento and earned a Masters of Public Administration from California State University Northridge. An active rider, Polly met her husband, John, through a horse club friend. Polly supported John through veterinary school at Ohio State, and in 1956 they moved to Ojai, California, to start a veterinary practice and begin breeding and showing under the Matilija Morgans banner.

A skilled equestrian and exhibitor, Polly showed in in-hand, rode Western and English, pleasure driving and carriage classes at shows throughout California, the West, and the Grand National. Polly was active in the Morgan Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, serving on its governing board and committee for the annual Morgan Medallion Show. She created humorous cartoons depicting the trials and tribulations of horse breeding and showing which regularly appeared in The Morgan Horse magazine.

An ardent advocate for youth, horses, and agriculture, Polly served on the Ventura County Fair Board where she pushed for construction of a new show arena subsequently named for Justin Morgan. Polly joined the AMHA Board of Directors in 1970 and championed the creation of the Morgan Horse Youth Program. Polly represented AMHA on the USDA Horse Industry Advisory Committee and the National Horse & Pony Youth Activities Council, and played a pivotal role working with Walt Disney Studios on the production of "Justin Morgan Had a Horse" for the Wonderful World of Disney TV show. She was named AMHA Woman of the Year in 1974, and was recognized for her groundbreaking work with an AMHA Medallion Award for Service to Youth in 1976.

After giving so much, Polly stepped away from the show ring to focus on trail and endurance riding, and working as a trail ride wrangler at an Ojai resort. In later life, Polly directed her energy to travel and writing. An adventurous soul, Polly and her Jack Russell Terrier Winnie made solo motorhome trips over many years throughout the Southwest, across the continent, and Alaska. In the last two decades of her life, Polly developed a unique poetic voice that conveyed her own self-discovery, past hurt and resolution in blunt, raw terms. She was frequently invited to read her work at workshops around the state and had multiple works published in poetry journals. Her prose won the Santa Barbara Magazine Prize at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference in 1992, and in 2013 she was named a Literary Treasure of Ventura County.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Morgan Horse Educational and Charitable Trust, 4066 Shelburne Road, Suite 5, Shelburne, VT 05482.

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