The year was 1956, and Harry de Leyer had arrived late at the horse auction in Pennsylvania Amish Country. All that was left were the horses bound for slaughterhouses. This is where Mr. de Leyer first met his horse that would eventually be known as one of the greatest show jumpers to ever grace the arena. He was a damaged, ruddy-looking old plow horse covered in mud and manure. Mr. de Leyer bought him for $80 dollars. His children soon helped decide the horse’s name. Snowman.
The world of horse jumping was focused on the finest-bred multi-thousand-dollar horses imported from all over the world, but Mr. de Leyer and Snowman earned a spot in the (sometimes snooty) world through their endless work ethic and positive attitudes. While other horses would be hot-stepping around the arena like raging containers of athleticism, Snowman would stand on a loose rein and rest on 3 legs. After waiting calmly for his turn, he would consistently destroy the competition with clean rounds and astonishing jumps.
As the blue ribbons started accumulating, Snowman became a national icon. Other people may have sold their champion, collected a sum of money that was more than they would make in 10 years, and called it a day. But not the de Leyers. Snowman was part of the family.
The story of Snomwan and the de Leyer family reminds us that success and accomplishment are great things to strive for, but they can be toxic if achieved without gratitude. Harry, his family, and Snowman were bonded by experience and love. Even though Snowman was a world-class jumper, he was never considered “above” taking the children for a swim in the ocean or being the schoolmaster for a brand new rider.