“Yes, it can happen! It can happen again.”
Some kid can come out of nowhere with a horse that doesn’t look so good and win. It happened to me says De Leyer…
(February 29, 1948 – September 24, 1974)
Snowman was a former plow horse of mixed breed ancestry, possibly a cross of Quarter Horse, Morgan, and various draft horse types. He was purchased for $80.00 on his way to a slaughterhouse and became a champion in show jumping in the United States during the 1950s. During his career he was known as “The Cinderella Horse” due to his “rags to riches” story.
Snowman was originally used for farm work and in 1956 was headed for the slaughterhouse at eight years of age. On that day, Harry de Leyer, a Long Island, New York, riding instructor, attended the horse auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania, looking for school horses. He arrived late, and the only remaining horses were those waiting to be loaded into trucks bound for slaughter plants. De Leyer made eye contact with a large gray horse that he purchased for $80. He first used Snowman as a lesson horse for children. De Leyer recognized talent in the horse after he sold him to a neighbor and the horse jumped high fences to return home. De Leyer then began training Snowman as a show jumper.
The horse began winning prestigious classes only two years after he was bought off the slaughter truck, and his career lasted five years. He was photographed performing unusual feats such as jumping over other horses and his calm disposition made him a favorite. He once won a leadline class and an open jumper championship on the same day.
“I liked his eyes. He looked very quiet, at peace,” says de Leyer,…
Snowman also appeared on television shows (Johnny Carson’s for one, where Carson climbed on his back). He was the subject of two books, had his own fan club, and was flown abroad for “guest appearances”.
De Leyer kept Snowman through his retirement until the animal was euthanized in the fall of 1974 due to complications from kidney failure at the age of twenty-six.