The Horse With The Flying Tail (1960)

LARRY LANSBURGH

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 1960. . Screenplay by . Cinematography by , , Larry Lansburgh, , . Produced by Larry Lansburgh. Music by . Film Editing by .

The palomino horse that won the gold medal at the 1959 Pan American games is given his own film to celebrate his fame, though true to the Walt Disney company’s style of documentary at the time, much of it is staged and fictionalized. He’s portrayed as a run of the mill stock horse who has trouble finding a good home, sold from one owner to the next and utilized, not very successfully, in a number of different capacities before his being sold to a horse jumper sees him finding his calling. In real life, he gained the name of “Sneaky Pete” because of a temperamental nature that saw him often refusing to jump hurdles on a whim, while the filmmakers, for reasons that we are still trying to address and contend with today, change his name to “Injun Pete” and create a saga of interactions with humans both positive and negative, some involving adventure and others hardship. Eventually, Pete finds himself sold to a member of the United States Equestrian team, Hugh Wiley, and along with the team’s coach and under his new, lasting name, Nautical, he is trained to be an athlete worthy of Olympian glory, endearing himself to his audiences with a trick move that fans look for whenever he competes: while clearing his jumps, Nautical always shoots his lengthy, bright tail straight up in the air as if to give the audience a thumbs-up approval for his own move. A charming delight that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this film was screened alongside Swiss Family Robinson in movie theatres and, while it has a number of dated elements that might not win it a mainstream fan base today, still has a lot to offer fans of horse-related events.

Academy Awards: Best Documentary Feature

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