What are you about to read, is one of the most beautiful and incredible stories in the equine world. This the true story of Harry de Leyer and his horse, Snowman, who lived a real-life fairytale. Harry bought the quiet plow horse for only 80 dollars but he had no idea that life would turn upside down had for both of them. Keep reading to find out! Harry de Leyer was born in 1928 and came from the village of The St Oedenrode in the Noord-Brabant region of Holland. He grew up on a farm with horses, competing frequently in show jumping competitions but in 1940, the Germans attacked and invaded Holland, taking away many horses owned by the Dutch.
So, Harry, 22, had no other choice but to leave the country along with his wife and emigrated in the U.S.A. with just $160 and a wooden case holding their belongings. Harry found work in the South on tobacco farms until he found a job as a horse groom, which gave him the opportunity to show off his riding skills and talent. One a snowy day in February 1956, Harry decided to go on a horse auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania, looking to buy something quiet for the school where he worked as a riding instructor. He was late on the way to the auction and when he finally arrived, the auction had finished, and all the horses left were refuses sold for meat.
One of them was an eight-year-old, messy, grey plow horse from Amish country but Harry looked behind his appearance and thought the horse looked sweet and kind. That’s why Harry gave $60 to the meat man for the thin horse with cut knees, one shoe missing, and tackle rubs on his body, plus $20 to have him delivered. As soon as they both arrived at the house, it was snowing a lot and his four-year-old daughter, Harriet, said he resembled a snowman, so that became his name. With Harry’s care and attention, Snowman’s health improved a lot, and he grew into a different horse.
At the end of every school year, Harry would usually sell some of his horses so he sold the Snowman to a local doctor who was just like Harry, wanted a quiet horse for both himself and his children. But after a short period, Snowman arrived at Harry’s barn, certainly having escaped from his paddock and finding his way to his old “home.” He did things a few times, so Harry proposed to the doctor that he made his paddock fences higher, as he had jumped over them. The doctor, tired of his him, asked Harry if he could take care of Snowman at his barn. Harry agreed, but neither the doctor or his children came to see him again, and the horse became Harry’s once more, continuing his role in the riding school.
Fascinated by Snowman’s gift to jump out of the paddocks, Harry decided to try him over a four-foot fence. Snowman did it with efficiency and it became obvious that he would only make an incredible jumper. Harry decided to train him and after a brief time, they were ready to compete at every show. In 1958, just two years after Harry had rescued Snowman from the meat man, they accomplished the ultimate by winning the Triple Crown at Madison Square Gardens, The American Association Horse of the Year, Professional Horseman’s Association Champion, and Champion of Madison Square Garden’s Diamond Jubilee.
They raced against showjumping myths such as Frank Chapot, George Morris, and William Steinkraus. Yet in 1959, Snowman repeatedly won the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year and the Professional Horseman’s Association Champion at Madison Square Gardens, becoming the first horse in history to win them two years running. After their incredible success, Harry had several offers to sell Snowman, including a man who offered him the crazy amount of $100,000, but he refused them without thinking twice. Snowman became a nationwide personality and was known as the “Cinderella Horse.”
He resigned from competitions in 1962, spending the rest of his life with Harry. In 1969, there was even a formal retirement ceremony for him at the National Horse Show at the New Madison Square Gardens. When he was 26 years old, Snowman was having health issues and unfortunately, he died from kidney failure in 1974. Although his vets did everything he could, the treatment was ineffective so Snowman was euthanized, with his beloved owner by his side, and was buried in his personal corner of the grass paddock. May his soul rest in peace!