The Bold and Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse

Discover the 12 women from the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame who were leaders in the American Quarter Horse industry.
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The Bold and the Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse” was a previous exhibit that featured twelve women who made a tremendous impact on the American Quarter Horse – as an association and a breed.  Some were breeders, some were owners and competitors, and others were chroniclers and artists who recorded not only history but life at the time.  All were leaders and visionaries, and each left their mark on the American Quarter Horse.  Their efforts opened the doors to others and made it possible for the lifestyle to exist in the industry.

The women included in the exhibit were by no means the only trailblazers.  There are many unsung heroes whose dreams and sacrifices created the American Quarter Horse of today. Sharon Ralls Lemon, an American author, said:

“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.”

Her quote defines the focus of “The Bold and the Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse” exhibit.  These visionary women embody the elements of grace, beauty, spirit and fire.

Contact the Museum at 806-376-5181 to purchase this exhibit's companion book

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angle-left Mrs. Fisher E. Simmons

Mrs. Fisher E. Simmons - "Miss Polly"

She found her love of American Quarter Horses through her son, who was on a military school polo team.

Her name on the Hall of Fame plaque reads “Mrs. Fisher E. Simmons,” but deep in the heart of Cajun country, she simply went by the name “Miss Polly.” 

Pauline Sill “Polly” McIlhenny Simmons was born July 22, 1902, on Avery Island, Louisiana, to Edward Avery McIlhenny and Mary Givens Matthews.  Her paternal grandfather, Edmund McIlhenny, invented Tabasco brand pepper sauce around 1868, and her father ran the pepper sauce business, organized as McIlhenny Company, from 1898 until his death in 1949.

Polly’s experiences with horses are not those typically associated with the familiar cowboys on American Quarter Horses.  She told stories of herding Brahman cattle through thickly vegetated brush and getting bucked off green horses that did not think too highly of wading through the rear-whacking bamboo stalks.

In the 1950s one of Polly’s sons served as captain of a military school polo team at Culver Military Institute, and on his return to Avery Island joined a local polo team.  He was always on the lookout for good polo ponies, and Polly bought a roan stallion, Blue Mills by Bunky Phillips, for him.  It was through her son’s involvement with this team that Polly became familiar with the American Quarter Horse.  She became a fan of the versatile breed and began to purchase, show and race Quarter Horses.  At one time she owned as many as 100 horses, which she stabled in locations both on and off the island.

Quarter Horses were a great source of enjoyment for Polly. One of her widely known horses was Te Ellen, a palomino ROM cutting mare shown extensively in the South and Southwest by Ed Dugas.  Quality in her mares resulted in success in halter shows and performance classes, before she turned her attention to the race track.

Polly eventually joined the Board of Directors of Evangeline Downs race track later becoming a member of the Board of Directors of Delta Downs race track in Vinton, Louisiana.  In fact, Polly played a major role in the founding of Delta Downs.  During racing season, she made the 250-mile round trip each weekend to visit the Vinton track.  She devoted so much of her energy to racing at Delta Downs that a room and a race – the “Miss Polly Handicap” – was named in her honor.

Polly was active in the American Quarter Horse Association, holding various offices within the organization.  In 1968, Polly became the fifth woman director of AQHA; she was given the title of AQHA Honorary Vice President in 1976.  She also served on the public information committee.

In addition to her work with horses, Polly ran Jungle Gardens, a plant nursery and tourism destination on Avery Island.  The 300 acres were dedicated to the preservation of the island’s natural beauty. 

Polly was the wife of Fisher E. Simmons, Sr. and the mother of three sons, Fisher Simmons Jr., Edward McIlhenny “Ned” Simmons, and William M. “Bill” Simmons.  Miss Polly died April 11, 1980, at the age of 77.

Want to learn more about Miss Polly? Purchase a "The Bold & Beautiful: Trailblazing Women of the American Quarter Horse" companion book from the museum to learn more about the stories and history of the 12 women in the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.