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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the 2016 documentary Harry & Snowman highlights the unusual bond between a scrappy Dutch World War II refugee and the old plow horse he saved from the glue factory in 1948. The horse became a world-renowned jumping champion, surprising and delighting the high falutin' crowd supporting this elite, blue-blood sport. It's an American dream tale that illustrates how judging a book by its cover can be a mistake. Children of all ages will be affected by its beauty and the deep emotional relationship between horse and man. Scenes of World War II destruction by the Nazis against the Dutch are shown. Harry's young daughter was injured in a serious riding accident and is later seen walking with a cast on her leg. At age 26, Snowman is ill and incapacitated and needs to be "put to sleep." Harry is seen crying years later at the horse's grave.
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What's the story?
HARRY & SNOWMAN tells the unbelievable story of a deep friendship between man and horse. Harry DeLeyer is the plucky self-taught rider who risked his life during his Dutch teen years to rescue fallen American soldiers from Nazi threat. Coming to the United States with not much more than the shirt on his back, he becomes a trainer and instructor at a prestigious girls' school. For $80 he buys an old plow horse on its way to being turned into horse meat. That forges a bond between them. When the horse is sold, he keeps jumping his neighbor's fence to return to the man who saved him. Harry buys the horse back and the two become friends and collaborators in an unexpected jumping career that wins Snowman back-to-back Horse of the Year awards at the largest and most important horse show in America. Harry bucks the blue-blood establishment with his daring equestrian moves atop the white plow horse with a champion's heart. Headlines of 1950s newspapers announce their victories and Snowman's talent wins Harry the reputation and respect he'd always strived for. Harry's wife and eight children all work the horse farm with him, but his need to excel sometimes puts the family's wishes and well-being at risk.
Is it any good?
This documentary is satisfying on so many levels, and suggests that random acts of kindness sometimes provide unknowable rewards. Harry saved a horse headed for the glue factory just because they happened to make eye contact. It's fun to root for the $80 farm horse as he beats the establishment's best and most expensive Thoroughbreds, all shown in home movies and newsreels of the time. But while this is a feel-good story, director Ron Davis uses interviews with the 86-year-old Harry and his adult children to present a man with many strengths and just as many flaws. Fortunately, his weaknesses don't stand in the way of his humanity. When the emotionally-overcome Harry stands at the horse's grave and says, "He made me," all viewers will understand the meaning of gratitude.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Snowman surprised Harry with his jumping ability. Harry didn't expect Snowman to be a great jumper because the horse didn't look the part. What does that tell us about appearances and expectations?
Harry and his wife and eight children all worked on their horse farm, taking care of the animals. What do you think those children learned about responsibility and caring for other living things from those experiences?
Harry's children, now adults, speak about how his drive to be a great champion put them in competition with their father sometimes because he seemed to value his own success more than he valued theirs. How do you think that might have made his children feel?
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