Everything Else

An unmissable treat for eventing fans: Sylvester the Movie

Anyone who enjoyed International Velvet will definitely enjoy this American film, which has a fairly similar plot. It’s pretty much impossible to find on video, since it dates back to 1985, but fortunately has been uploaded to YouTube in installments, listed here (below Black Beauty) which are slightly disjointed to watch, but it’s still worth the effort of watching them.

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Can you work out which pair won Rolex Kentucky, and which ones are the actor and stand-in horse?!?!   Photo by Mary Phelps.

Kim Walnes, and her wonderful The Gray Goose, U.S. Team members from ’80-’86, who won Rolex Kentucky in 1982, and also Bronze Individual and Team medals at the 1983 World Championships in Luhmühlen, were the stunt doubles in the movie.

Here is Kim’s website, which is well worth a look.

Kim’s memories of filming:

“On the first day of shooting, they put pink make up on Gray’s nose to make him look more like Sylvester. He tolerated it that one time, and then made it clear after that that he was an au naturel horse!”

“Once “Charlie” gets to KY, any place you don’t see Melissa’s face, it’s me – except for one long shot of Gray picking up the canter in dressage, and the first 1/2 of show jumping, which the stunt director’s daughter, Joey Gaitlin, did on one of his horses. She also did the shying stunt when “Sylvester” comes into the ring to show jump.”

“We jumped all the fences “in cold blood”. Sometimes there would be a picnic table nearby that we could warm up over. Gray was so smart and so much “in the game”, that he would always jump one of those big fences like we were on course and had somehow forgotten a proper warmup, but then if I pulled him up after, he knew we were filming and would jump it repeatedly, and then he’d add extra bounce to it instead of conserving his energy for what could have been coming.”

“Coming down to that water was the hardest, since I had to try to look like I was falling off ½ way through. And there was only one or two strides to do that. It was the last thing we shot, and by that time Gray knew the drill: whatever I practiced before we ran down to the jump was what we were going to do. So as I practiced ducking off his right shoulder in midair and landing, he adjusted to my bizarre behavior well…until we were galloping down to the Head of the Lake. Then I could feel him saying to me, “You’re not going to do THAT in there are you?” And he stopped! Gray NEVER stopped! I told the cameramen (and there was a huge boom with a camera on it right over the lake) that I had to run through the whole thing correctly a time or 2, and then they’d only have the one chance to get the shot. That’s what we did, and it worked well. The next year I wondered as we galloped down if he’d have any reservations, but he jumped through like the champ he was.”

There’s more about Gray and Kim, on Kim’s website.

Of Kim’s teaching, a pupil says “Kim helps you find the true connection between classical, natural and competitive horsemanship”, that so-elusive goal for so many of us!


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