The Snowman of Ron Davis’ documentary “Harry & Snowman” is a horse that melts the heart. Purchased in the 1950s for $80 off a truck bound for the slaughterhouse, Snowman became a champion show jumper.
And that was only one surprise in the long friendship that began when this scruffy white gelding locked eyes with Harry deLeyer, who raised horses and taught riding at a girls’ school in Long Island.
When we meet him, deLeyer is pushing 86 and still riding. As a young man, he looked dashing in his riding clothes, as seen in archival footage. The movie shares tantalizing tidbits about his past in the underground in World War II, and deLeyer, a Dutch immigrant, tells of hiding Jews in the cellars of family barns in the Netherlands.
On camera, deLeyer says he felt an immediate connection with Snowman. His daughter Harriet deLeyer explains that the horses always took priority over his eight children. So did her father’s career. “A lot of times the kids went without so that he could have,” she said.
This film skillfully challenges our expectations by unfolding Snowman’s abilities one at a time: In summer he is a swimming water taxi for a passel of deLeyer children; in winter he pulls them on skis.
And once his rarest talent is shown, he soars. As Snowman takes the highest jumps, gathering his haunches, he extends himself until his body is almost vertical, as if he were climbing a mountain.
In the film, a student of deLeyer’s recalls some of his advice: “Throw your heart over the top, and your horse will follow.” “Harry & Snowman” makes you want to do the same.
(At the Tivoli.)
‘Harry & Snowman’
Not rated. Time: 1:24.