Today we remember the Cinderella-story show jumper that inspired a nation in the late ’50s and early ’60s.
Snowman’s life story has been the subject of a book, The Eighty-Dollar Champion, and is now being made into a documentary scheduled for a 2014 release. The narrative goes that in 1956, the slaughterhouse-bound former plow horse was intercepted in the nick of time by Harry de Leyer, a Long Island riding instructor. He purchased Snowman for $80 and brought him home to be used as a lesson horse. His talent for jumping became apparent, after De Leyer sold the horse to a neighbor and he jumped a series of high fences to return to his former home. De Leyer began training him as a show-jumper and Snowman soon earned a reputation for himself as one of the best jumpers in the country, winning prestigious classes against the great horses and riders of the age. He was also revered for his disposition–escorting children in lead-line classes and willingly complying with stunts like jumping over other horses. He acquired such a following that he appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and was flown abroad to meet fans.
Snowman remained with De Leyer until his passing at age 26. In 1992 he was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, and in 2005 a Breyer horse was modeled after him.
Check out this trailer for Snowman’s forthcoming documentary, presented by:
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