Sunday, January 18, 2015


It's funny about Snowman.  He's the horse who in 1956 went from having one hoof in a pet food can to being an elite show jumper, and very likely the only show jumper to ever make any impression on an American audience. His rags-to-riches story seems to have enabled him to make a slight dent in the extremely sturdy American indifference to horse shows.  Harness races were popular when everyone drove horses instead of cars. Thoroughbred racing was popular when we still associated wealth with beauty and glamor. Rodeos will always be popular because we are, at heart, all shit-kickers. But horse shows? Tweens riding Daddy's paycheck around a ring while Mommies Who Lunch applaud? You must be joking. 

Horse shows, in the hunter/jumper fashion, are elitist. It's an uncomfortable fit with the American sense of propriety, where every Trump pretends to be a self-made man. Of course, racing is even more elitist, but who can even bother being envious of people who own Bluegrass real estate? It's like envying the stars. Our real annoyance is with people whose homes block our view of the stars. And so we ignore show jumping. Completely.

Except for Snowman.  He had the charm of the underdog, plus the appeal of being an Ordinary Joe.  The photos of him being used as a giant pet by owner Harry de Leyer's children are more numerous than images of him competing at major horse shows.  

A sign of that interest is the fact that Snowman has had several books written about him.


The Story of Snowman, the Cinderella Horse by Tony Palazzo (1962)

Snowman by Rutherford Montgomery (1967)

The Eight-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts (2010)

And now, there's a documentary film being released:

Harry & Snowman trailer
Elizabeth Letts website