You can catch ‘The Horse With The Flying Tail’ at 12:45 AM on June 3 (that’s just after midnight on Friday).
The movie begins in New Mexico on the South Springs Ranch with an adorable six-day-old colt living on the range. His dam lovingly teaches him about cross country jumps.
The film then shows us clips of the Palomino, renamed “Injun Joe,” as a young horse causing trouble on the ranch, stealing corn from Native Americans and jumping fences when he was supposed to be herding cattle.
It was his jumping ability that led him to the nearby ranch of Colonel Norton and his daughter, Sue. Sue put him through his paces before selling him as a prospect to a foxhunter from Virginia.
Unfortunately, Injun Joe was ill-suited for his rider and foxhunting. He was then sold to a jumping barn with a ruthless trainer. Joe was starved for his disobedience and badly beaten.
He was then sold to a rental stable that offered rides for $2 an hour. That didn’t end well, so he was auctioned off for a rock-bottom price to yet another jumping stable. This rider proved to be a steadier personality, though, and “reawakened” Joe’s jumping ability.
Joe was sold again, this time to a professional jumper, who finally rode him in a few competitions where he earned the nickname “Sneaky Pete.” It was on this eastern show circuit that Hugh Wiley and the palomino would finally cross paths.
Finally, the infamous palomino was recruited for the United States Equestrian Team. He was renamed Nautical and moved to team headquarters in Connecticut, where we are introduced to the rest of the now legendary team including William Steinkraus, Frank Chapot and George Morris.
Ummm … I can’t believe I’m saying this, but George was a total hottie back in the day. Hello, gorgeous.
Nautical was brought up slowly, conditioning on the flat for months before a return to jumping. He flourished with the love, attention and meticulous care provided by Wiley. In his European debut at Paris, Nautical and Wiley did well, though they didn’t place.
Next, the team headed to Aachen where Nautical and Wiley finished 3rd out of 68.
Shortly after Aachen, Wiley’s 1st string horse, Master William, went lame. Nautical was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as Wiley’s mount for the King George V Cup competition.
In real life, Nautical was sired by an American Quarter Horse named Muchacho de Oro out of an Army Remount mare of mostly Thoroughbred breeding. Registered as Peter de Oro, Nautical would go on to win the King George V Cup and then the Team Gold at the 1959 Pan American Games. His trademark “flying tail” was the source of the documentary’s title. Nautical will be inducted into the Palomino Hall of Fame in 2016; read more about his biography and accomplishments here.
The Horse With The Flying Tail won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1961. This film is a strange mix of old-school Disney cheese (for example Nautical “packed his own bags” before leaving for Europe), straight baller Pony Club educational information, live footage from real events and Hollywood glamour shots. All that goodness is packaged in a neat 47 minute flick that can be had for $2.99 on Amazon Instant Video.
I give The Horse With The Flying Tail 4 Golden Horseshoes.