Harry and Snowman is a documentary about the incredible showjumping pair Harry deLeyer and his horse Snowman. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the duo, Harry purchased Snowman, a former plow horse, at a killer auction for $80. After a series of really funny events that I won’t spoil for you, Harry decided to pursue showjumping with Snowman, and they pretty much made history.
This movie was incredibly heartwarming. The relationship between Harry and Snowman reminded me a lot of my relationship with my own horse, Sunny. According to Harry, he and Snowman bonded at the killer auction and became inseparable. Snowman was intelligent, intuitive, incredibly willing, kind, and gentle with the kids. Sunny, while nowhere near as talented as Snowman, is also many of those things, though he's a lot more sassy I think.
It was incredible to hear about the journey that Harry and Snowman took, especially through the eyes of Harry’s family and others like George Morris and Rodney Jenkins. To hear his former students, other notable show jumpers, and especially his own children recount their memories of Snowman is probably the most heartwarming aspect of this movie for me. I especially loved seeing the pictures of Harry’s kids riding three, four, or more at once on Snowman. They would take him trail riding, to shows, to the beach to swim. According to one of his daughters, “Snowman loved to swim. Loved to swim.” You can see it in the videos of him at the beach, too.
Much of the story is told through old home movies, grainy pictures, and even televised events that were still black and white. As a lifelong equestrian myself, I love watching things like this because it’s a trip back in time. Getting to see not only what horse shows were like back then and how people dressed, but the differences in riding styles is so cool.
I admit, watching the grainy black and white video clips of the national horse shows with celebrities and politicians filling the stands at Madison Square Gardens made me crazy jealous. According to George Morris, the National horse show marked the beginning of some major socialite season and it was just something everyone did.
Snowman was a celebrity in his own right, too. Books, comics, a European tour, a Bulova watch ad, even a fan club. Again, making me a little jealous that equestrian sports aren't as mainstream as they were back then.
Then, to hear Harry talk about what it was like to watch Snowman age just about broke my heart. Snowman had an incredible retirement party at Madison Square Gardens. He was presented with a custom blanket and a bed of roses, they walked around the arena to a sendoff worthy of a champion, and he got the retirement he deserved.
What struck me the most about this movie, though, was Harry’s recount of what it was like growing up in Holland during World War 2. He was 12 when the war broke out, and as a kid, he joined the underground. His family was so active in the underground, the Germans even suspected his father of being in charge. Much like the underground railroad during the Civil War here in the US, they hid Jews in the cellar in the barn, covered the door with manure, and helped them out of the country when they got an opening.
While I’ve glossed over the highlights in this review, there is much, much more to the story of Harry and his horse Snowman. This movie undoubtedly joins the ranks of other great horse movies like Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and 50 to 1, but its documentary nature brings an authenticity that makes this movie almost more emotional and more touching than any other. Harry and Snowman is currently on Netflix, so grab your barn friends and settle in for this wonderful movie.