Amy Phillips Penn began her career as assistant to the world-renowned society/fashion columnist, Eugenia Sheppard. After Sheppard’s death, Penn continued her former boss’s “Around The Town” society column for the New York Post under her own byline. The column was syndicated in the Palm Beach Daily News.
As a Palm Beacher, she continued her coverage of society for several Palm Beach publications, until she convinced an editor that she could cover a polo clinic by riding through it. Emerging intact, she became obsessed with polo, not an uncommon reaction for a first-time player.
Dismounted, she writes for many national magazines, both equestrian and not. She also authored Elaine’s: The Rise of One of New York’s Most Legendary Restaurants from Those Who Were There, a tribute to legendary restaurateur Elaine Kaufman and her renowned Manhattan creative melting pot.
But Penn self-published Diosa: One Mare’s Odyssey on the Planet Earth (as whispered to Amy Phillips Penn) as a labor of love, to help animals in distress.
“After spending three Wellington hurricanes in my bathroom with my golden retriever, Holly, worrying about my horses (they were safe), I became all too aware of how much we need to do a better job for our animals in emergencies,” Penn said. “There were few, if any, shelters in the area that would allow for dogs, so we sat in the bathroom with a transistor radio, candles, and prayers.”
Her polo pony, Diosa, was at one stable; Max, her hunter, at another. They were eventually moved, but the memory stayed with her. “After the third hurricane, I moved to Santa Barbara, animals in tow,” Penn continued.
A visit to San Diego for polo, after a series of California fires, moved her. “I was impressed by the way that San Diego reached out to protect animals. Horses, dogs, cats, even emus were welcomed at the nearby fairgrounds.”
“The obvious had spoken,” she said. “We need to protect the planet and our animals in emergencies.”
But it was when David Lominska, “a phenomenal polo photographer,” took pictures of Diosa on the beach that an idea was born. “I wrote Diosa’s story in her voice,” Penn said of her black mare. The idea was to show the experience of living through hurricanes, wildfires, and polo from an animal’s point of view.
“And I felt so strongly about this, that I wanted to take Diosa’s plea to the big screen.” Penn has collaborated on a screenplay with writer Matthew Wilder, and the film is being shopped. “We’re looking to team up with the best producers and studio,” Penn said. “Requirements: must love the planet, animals, and life.”
Penn began her love of horses as a child on the East End. Her parents owned a house in East Hampton, and she began to ride in the summers.
“I’ve always been horse crazy,” she said. “I showed in the Southampton Horse Show, the less glamorous younger sister of the Hampton Classic, in the early 1960s. The grounds were bare, dusty, and for horse lovers only,” she continued.
“I showed a pony named Happy Days. I’d barely practiced, so when my trainer gave me sage advice, I paid attention. ‘Never stay in a crowd of horses. Cut across and stand out on your own, so that the judge will notice you.’”
“To my amazement, Happy Days was pinned with a yellow ribbon,” she remembered. “And the accuracy of my trainer’s advice has remained a well-embraced metaphor for life. I recommend it highly. The worst that can happen is that you get dusty.”