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Polly Holm Passes Away

by Bob Funkhouser

Much like the horses and ponies she exhibited throughout her life, Polly Meade Holm had a heart much bigger than her God-given frame. She died April 29 at the age of 64, leaving behind a legacy of horses and friendships that will not be forgotten.

Born in Wisconsin, the daughter of Reginald and Lois Meade, Polly acquired her love of show horses from her mother who was quite an exhibitor herself. The Meade family built Meadowood Farm in Neenah, Wisc., when Polly was nine and Don Brockman was their trainer up until 1952. After Brockman the horses went to Lloyd Teater in Illinois, and with Teater and Audrey Gutridge, Polly was unstoppable with Lovely Maid and Fancy Harvest. She won the Mayor's Cup at Milwaukee three years; Lexington Junior League's Equitation Championship and Minton Memorial; as well as Louisville's Minton Memorial title. A graduate of Christian College and the University of Missouri, Polly married and moved to California where she had sons, David and Marc. She overcame major health issues and following her divorce, returned to Wisconsin, and again got involved in the horse business with her sons. Rick Wallen was their trainer/instructor and that started a friendship that spanned decades.

"I knew of Polly when she was younger because she was showing against my sister at the time and she usually won," recalled Rick Wallen. "When she moved back to Wisconsin she had the boys start taking lessons. David showed academy a little bit, but never followed through with it. Marc was three or four years younger and after a while he started taking interest."

It pleased Holm that there would be a third generation of equestrians in her family. In fact, the children and their horses were the bright spots in her life which was filled with many doctors. When she got out of the hospital with her latest bout with cancer, she told Wallen she wanted a horse for herself and they found S.S. Music Man.

A group of lucky friends got to show Music Man while Holm was getting stronger. Doug Eberhart won a national championship on him as a junior horse and then Sandy Bernd won a reserve world's championship the following year. Linda Porick and Sally Jo Briney was also on the catch riding team.

"Once Polly got strong, she started riding him [Music Man] and we never got her out of the saddle," Wallen fondly remembered. "She often told me, ‘If it wasn't for S.S. Music Man I wouldn't have had the desire to continue living.' I don't know how many times she told me that horse saved her life.

"He was a horse with such a unique head set and a light mouth. He was the perfect horse for her. Polly and Music Man went on to win a world's championship and two reserve world's championships as well as a Reserve National Pleasure Championship at the American Royal. They won well over 50 blues together."

Also during that time Holm, Wallen, Dr. Burke and Faffie Romero formed a partnership and purchased a young gaited mare who was a full sister to the newly crowned Five-Gaited World's Grand Champion Sky Watch. They kept her with John T. Jones as Wallen and Holm had another three-year-old that year.

That three-year-old was none other than Callaway's Mr. Republican. They saw him at Midwest and then went to Kentucky to try him. "I was a little apprehensive about him at first," tells Wallen. "When he showed at Midwest his eyes were so big and he saw everything. I didn't think that a horse who saw everything was what Polly needed for herself, but then when I tried him I said, ‘Oh my God, this horse is going to be perfect for you.' He had the smoothest slow gait and rack."

In six years of showing Mr. Republican won 75 percent of his classes for the Wallen/Holm team. One year he lost only one class and that was the Five-Gaited World's Grand Championship. Having won gelding stake, Wallen and Mr. Republican were second to Man On The Town and George Knight in the big one. Mr. Republican was also the fifth horse to retire the Kansas City Star Challenge Trophy at the American Royal.

"Polly showed Mr. Republican probably a half dozen times," said Wallen. "She showed him at Madison Square Garden and she won with him at Madison and Tanbark. Polly was never shy about going to horse shows. Sometimes we would get criticized for taking to some smaller shows, but Polly wanted everyone to have an opportunity to see this amazing horse. We also went to Germany to perform in Equitana. That was a thrill we talked about for some time.

"That horse meant so much to her. She loved promoting him and letting people see and ride him. When Bob Griffin was here working for me she let him ride him one day. Bob said he never thought he would have the opportunity to ride a horse of that caliber."

Through the years Holm had many top notch horses and ponies with Wallen. Some of the other horses included Ahead Of The Class, CH Questar, Spartan's Special Memories, Spartan's Excitement, Spirit's Good Times, Santana Sensation and Superlative. Some of those champions she shared with her son Marc.

Holm was also an avid Hackney owner/exhibitor with stars like 1983 World's Champion Harness Pony Stallion/Gelding Mark's Caballero and Late-Nite's Grand Event, with whom Holm won an amateur reserve world's grand championship.

"We had a lot of nice horses and ponies together and won a lot of classes but the thing we were most proud of where the horses we selected together," said Wallen. "We had to both agree on a horse before we would buy it and it turned out that every horse we selected won either a world's or reserve world's championship. A few of them won titles later with other people, but every horse we picked out ended up being first or second at Louisville.

"We were talking about that last week when I went to see her. We had a lot of good times together. She was a great owner. When you told her what her horses needed you didn't have to ask twice to get it. She wanted what was best for them.

"I can't believe she won't be here anymore. I told her she helped make me who I am today by giving the opportunity to work so many nice horses and ponies. She enhanced my career and I'll never forget her for that."

When Holm had slowed down with her hands on horse activity she still stayed involved through working on horse shows and various committees. Osh Kosh, Glenn Valley, Milwaukee, and Midwest Charity were a few she worked on. She also had many friends who cared about her, in spite of her physical and personal problems.

"Although we had numerous disagreements, I'm very fond of of Polly," said longtime friend and fellow exhibitor Jane Mueller. "Polly had a wonderful eye and could have been a fine judge or riding instructor if her life had been less traumatic. She was also a founding member of the Friends of Asparagus - a point of hilarity we shared.

"She was the only non-family member at my wedding and was the official photographer, however, many of the photos were unusable because she had her finger over the lens. I will miss her."

Through the good and the bad Holm was a source of inspiration to many. She overcame many medical problems and then still survived a car wreck a few years ago in which a truck had crushed her. Thoughts of horses remained first and foremost and one of her greatest joys during the past year was going out to care for spend time with In The Stars, whom she had gotten back from Faffie Siekman.

"We lost a great person and horsewoman," said her son Marc Holm. "Everything will not be forgotten as I am carrying on the Meadowood Farm tradition. I'm not yet at the level of horses she had, probably a few years away still, but you all will hear something from me because she will be riding on my shoulder."

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