“Harry & Snowman” Is The True Story Of The Good-Natured Plow Horse Who Went On To Win The Show Jumping Triple Crown

September 28, 2016 — The human side of the world of show jumping, like the world of polo, is made up of extremely rich people who can invest in extremely pricey horseflesh. Newcomers are rarely welcomed; horses are expected to have long and impressive pedigrees.

These are worlds of class and prestige and wealth. 

That is one reason why the story of Snowman, the top show jumper of 1958 and 1959, captured the interest of so many people. Snowman had no pedigree — as a matter of fact, his owner, Harry de Leyer, wasn’t even sure how old the horse was. That’s because Snowman was bought off of a truck, one that was bound for the glue factory.

In 1956, de Leyer, a Dutch immigrant, had intended to buy a cheap horse at auction. But when his car got a flat tire, he missed the auction entirely. The good horses were sold, the others had been rounded up on the back of a truck and were going to be destroyed. But de Leyer saw something in one horse’s eyes — a peacefulness and a gentleness that he liked. He paid $80 for the mottled gray horse and took him home to his family.

They called the horse Snowman. de Leyer would sell off the horse to a farmer who lived 6 miles away. Evidently, Snowman apparently didn’t agree to the sale and he returned to the de Leyer farm. The farmer explained that the horse was jumping over fences to come back to de Leyer. Harry told him to build higher fences. The farmer did, but the horse returned.

At this point, de Leyer understood two things: first, that Snowman had found a home with the de Leyer family and it was where he belonged. de Leyer bought Snowman back from the farmer.

The second thing he realized was that the horse was a serious jumper. Some of the fences Snowman cleared in order to return to the de Leyer family were 5 feet high.

Less than two years after Snowman was bought off of the truck he was already winning serious competitions. In 1958 Snowman would win the horse show jumping 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, an extremely rare accomplishment. Around this time Harry would be offered $100,000 for the horse (approximately $833,000 today) but would refuse the offer.

The former plow horse wasn’t only the country’s top jumper — he also became a celebrity. He had his own fan club; Snowman toy horses were popular, and de Leyer and Snowman made television appearances once the horse’s fame spread. Johnny Carson sat on the easy-going horse on the Tonight Show.

Snowman was also a beloved member of the de Leyer family, and spent many happy hours with Harry’s 8 children on his back.

The award-winning documentary Harry & Snowman tells the heart-warming story of this remarkable horse and the family that loved him.

The film will release theatrically on September 30. Check here for theaters and times.
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