“Honor lies in the mane of a horse.”
In his first eight years of life, Snowman had pulled a plow, suffered neglect, been given up for dog meat, adopted by the de Leyers, nursed back to health and turned into a lesson horse. But this eighty-dollar gelding, this shaggy-coated, children-loving animal had hidden his gifts under the plainest, most humble exterior. He was the horse Harry de Leyer had dreamed of — the horse with the makings of a champion.
Only two years after his rescue, Snowman won the 1958 horse show Triple Crown — the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year, Professional Horseman’s Association Champion and Champion of Madison Square Garden’s Diamond Jubilee. The following year, he was again the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year and Professional Horseman’s Association Champion. After each of these wins, Harry and Snowman returned home to their day jobs as a riding instructor and lesson horse.
An instant celebrity, Snowman appeared on the most popular game show of its time, “To Tell the Truth” and on the “Tonight Show,” where the young guest host, Johnny Carson, climbed up a stepladder and scrambled onto Snowman’s back. He was profiled twice in Life magazine, was the subject of two books, had his own fan club, became a Breyer horse model and was even flown abroad for “guest appearances.”
Snowman retired from competition in 1962 and in 1969, he and Harry were invited to return to Madison Square Garden for a belated and triumphant retirement ceremony. Snowman died at home in 1974 with Harry by his side. He was inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992.
Photo by Bill Ray, used by permission