Thursday, May 24, 2012

Snowman

We all love a bargain!  Well, Snowman is one of the best bargains of all time!  The gray horse was on his way to the "meatmarket" when he was rescued and ultimately reached the pinnacle of show jumping.  At age eight, his life wasn't looking too good.  Riding instructor, Harry DeLeyer paid $80 for the gray gelding and took him home.  He soon became a riding horse, used to teach young riders. He was that gentle.  He was so well liked that one of the students purchased him and took him home to ride.  It was about that time that Snowman began jumping out of his pastures to come back to the riding school.  As the fences got higher, he continued to jump out and the horse was returned to Harry.


In 1958, two years after being "saved" by Harry, the horse was entered in a jumping competition. No one would have ever imagined how good he would be.  In 1958 and 1959, Harry and Snowman won the coveted Professional Horseman's Association Championship and the American Horse Show Association's Horse of the Year Award.  He was Champion in 1958 at the National Horse Show and in 1959 won the Stakes Class there as well.

Everyone loved Snowman.  He would jump anything, including other horses.  He once won the Leadline Class with a very young rider and an Open Jumper Championship at the same show. He made an appearance on the Johnny Carson Show.  He became a symbol of hope, that an ordinary horse, like an ordinary man, could somehow achieve the unachievable.  


Harry received many offers to buy Snowman, even turning down a $100,000 offer from Bert Firestone, another fixture in the horse world.  He kept the gray horse and retired him in 1964.  He died at the age of 26 from complications related to kidney failure, living out the remainder of his days on Harry's farm.  In 1992, Snowman was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame.  He was also made into a Breyer Horse Model.  There is also a very popular book "The Eighty-Dollar Champion."  I have not read it but it looks like a great beach read.


Today, Harry de Leyer lives in Virginia near Charlottesville and his house is full of mementos from his life with Snowman including a 1959 Life Magazine article.  He is in 80's now he still rides despite breaking his back in a haying accident.  He still recalls the wintry day in 1956 when he almost did not make to the auction in New Holland, Pa.  We all love a "feel good" story and I am hoping for another one on June 9th in Belmont Park.  Isn't it fascinating what happens with the right chemistry of horse and rider and of course, fate?




9 comments:

  1. Just finished this book, and I must say I absolutely loved it! Couldn't put it down!

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  2. I just finished this book this morning! It has become one of my favorites. Absolutely loved it.

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  3. I just picked up the book at library last night. So excited to start I brought it to work with me!

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  4. The picture above noted as "Snowman with the great rider, Bill Steinkraus" is only half correct. Great rider Billy Steinkraus?..Yes Snowman? ..NO

    Billy never rode Snowman, his great horse was SNOWBOUND. That is a picture of Billy on Ksar Desprit (although others will debate that it is Bold Minstral, people who knew both horses say it is Ksar)

    http://www.showjumpingnostalgia.com/?tag=ksar-desprit

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  5. Bought the book on Monday, finished it last night, now looking to purchase a retired Snowman model!!!!

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  6. Read this book in two days. Very interesting. I just barely remember Snowman and The Flying Dutchman in the show ring. They were spectacular!

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  7. I still have the 1959 Life Magazine article. I still cherish it as much as I did then.

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