How my favourite horse, Snowball, became a film star
- Credit: Archant
Angela Harvey got in touch following our article about the 10 top equine-related films of all time
Funny how some of our earliest memories remain the strongest, isn't it? Some of Angela Harvey's favourite times were spent on holiday in Dartmoor in the 1960s and she remembers them almost as if they were yesterday.
From the age of six or seven she enjoyed family holidays in the West Country, where they made friends with the owner of Foxworthy stables at Poundsgate, between Newton Abbot and Princetown.
'It was a wonderful place where they (parents) sort of dumped us and left us there with Jill Chamberlain in charge,' laughs Angela. That was when she was eight or nine. 'We used to just sleep in the straw and have a marvellous time galloping over the moors.
'We were like one of the family. We used to pick the fruit in the garden and collect the eggs.
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'When I got a bit older, I was there every holiday. If my parents went on holiday, they used to take me down there and leave me for about six weeks. It was a wonderful time of growing up.'
There was excitement when she was about nine and a film crew came to Devon – making a film called Run Wild, Run Free.
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Based on a novel by David Rook, it was about a troubled 10-year-old boy who hadn't talked since the age of three and had been trying to escape his family home and decent parents.
Out on the moors, the boy (Philip) meets a kindly and patient retired colonel who takes him under his wing and introduces him to the wonders of nature. The lad becomes friends with a wild colt grazing on the moor. Without giving away too much, there are of course plenty of twists and turns to come…
Mark Lester, then famous for his recent role in musical film Oliver!, played Philip. John Mills was the colonel, and co-stars included Gordon Jackson, Fiona Fullerton, Sylvia Syms and Bernard Miles.
And then there was Snowball – 'the pony I used to ride on Dartmoor', says Angela, who was born in 1959.
The gelding was one of the horses at Foxworthy – one of the original six she got to know (including Bubbles, Tinkerbell and so on).
The movie came out in 1969 and she imagines she would have seen it soon after release. 'It was quite a captivating film – a feelgood film, I suppose. There were a few nasty bits – falling into a bog etc!'
Not surprisingly, it is her favourite film – not that she remembers much about the actual shooting process.
'We were kept aside, really – kept out of the way while they were filming. They used two white ponies, actually. Snowball was used for the riding bits, I think. He had brown eyes. But the one they used for close-up shots had blue eyes! Snowball was my favourite, all the time, but he got so popular. All the little children wanted to ride him. I got so furious!'
That might have been because of the popularity of the film, she thinks, but also because he was generally lovely – with a good temperament and very placid.
Angela had grown up in the countryside, in Dorset.
'All my friends had horses and ponies – I used to ride them – and it was just part of our life, really. I looked after ponies and horses, but never actually owned one of my own.'
What did she like about them?
'I just loved animals. I still do. It's born into you, I suppose. My parents went down to Weymouth to live, from London – my father taught down there – and then we moved further into the country. We always had dogs, cats and various things.'
She continued spending holidays at Foxworthy until she was into her teens and things such as exams started to loom larger.
Angela studied interior design at art college and worked both in London and Essex. The mother of two girls moved to a village near Lavenham, in Suffolk, about 15 years ago.
In her spare time she's a wildlife artist – specialising at the moment in hares.
What about riding; did she keep it up? 'No… I did start again – gosh, probably about 20 years ago. But having children, it makes you a bit more wary.
'I haven't ridden properly for a long time, though I still have got friends with horses.'
It was her parents, probably, who presented her with a copy of The White Colt, the novel that inspired the film, when she was a girl. She still has it. Does she read it often?
'No!' Angela laughs. 'To be honest, I didn't get it down until I read your piece about films!'