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Harry and Snowman documentary highlights a horse saved from slaughter

by Kelly L. Williams

  • Trainer Harry deLeyer and rescued horse Snowman. Photo by Bill Ray.

The real-life story behind Harry and Snowman, a documentary by director and producer Ron Davis, reads like the plot of a fictional blockbuster: The film shares how Harry deLeyer (a Dutch immigrant who fled to the U.S. to escape the Nazis) and Snowman (the horse he saved from slaughter) became champion show jumpers and a pop-culture sensation during the 1950s and ‘60s. Davis hopes the documentary will both entertain audiences and inspire them to help protect horses. The film pairs with an action campaign to promote horse rescue, adoption and the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, federal legislation that would protect American horses from being slaughtered for human consumption overseas. In this edited interview with All Animals editor Kelly L. Williams, Davis shares his hopes for the film.

Why do you want to share this story?

It’s probably one of the best love stories about the bond between a person and a horse. The champion part was a bonus. The real story is the bond between Snowman and his family.

You visited the New Holland, Pennsylvania, horse auction where Harry purchased Snowman and saved him from slaughter. What was that like, given that you grew up with horses and brought them to similar auctions?

I thought, oh my God, the horses when I was little, we brought them to the sale in New Jersey and we just thought another family was going to get them, and we were going to get a bigger one. At New Holland, I saw a little pony, all cleaned up and show-sheened and a ribbon in its tail and a new halter, and I imagined some little girl or boy bringing their pony, ready for the next one. And I saw it in the kill pen. It was never even purchased.

The film doesn’t explicitly mention horse rescue. How do you think it inspires viewers to care about advocacy issues?

If I can promote change in a subtle way, in a positive way, in a way that you might not have thought about it, I want to do that with all my films. What I hope we can do with the film is show people, and inspire them, that you can actually adopt a horse and have it be a beautiful part of your family. If we can help people towards that, we’ve done a lot.

What do you want viewers to do after watching the film?

Hopefully they are so inspired with the story that they want to know more. They want more Snowman, they want more Harry. And they go to the website and they look things up, and they make a donation if they can’t rescue. Because 99 percent of the people won’t be able to have a horse. But what I say is, if you want to give another horse the same chance of a loving home that Snowman had, support here.

You can purchase a copy of Harry and Snowman here.

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