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The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nationby Elizabeth Letts
Synopses & Reviews
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
November 1958: the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Into the rarefied atmosphere of wealth and tradition comes the most unlikely of horses—a drab white former plow horse named Snowman—and his rider, Harry de Leyer. They were the longest of all longshots—and their win was the stuff of legend.
Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a bleak winter afternoon between the slats of a rickety truck bound for the slaughterhouse. He recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up horse and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, the horse thrived. But the recent Dutch immigrant and his growing family needed money, and Harry was always on the lookout for the perfect thoroughbred to train for the show-jumping circuit—so he reluctantly sold Snowman to a farm a few miles down the road.
But Snowman had other ideas about what Harry needed. When he turned up back at Harry’s barn, dragging an old tire and a broken fence board, Harry knew that he had misjudged the horse. And so he set about teaching this shaggy, easygoing horse how to fly. One show at a time, against extraordinary odds and some of the most expensive thoroughbreds alive, the pair climbed to the very top of the sport of show jumping.
Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom of an unlikely duo, based on the insight and recollections of “the Flying Dutchman” himself. Their story captured the heart of Cold War–era America—a story of unstoppable hope, inconceivable dreams, and the chance to have it all. Elizabeth Letts’s message is simple: Never give up, even when the obstacles seem sky-high. There is something extraordinary in all of us.
"Letts (Quality of Care) raises expectations in her newest book by claiming national inspiration in the subtitle. Snowman was a plow horse bought off the slaughter truck for by Danish immigrant Harry de Leyer. Snowman's appearance masked superior jumping talents, and de Leyer took him to the top of the 'expensive.... equestrian world was one of the last bastions of the upper-class elite.' The events occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s; however, Letts doesn't quite establish the context, and it's not clear how a horse provided inspiration for workers 'starved for dreams' amid 'terrifying fears of nuclear age tensions.' Diversions such as the decline of the American horse population offer little insight, and nonequestrians will occasionally be puzzled by the lingo, particularly with respect to equine anatomy. Still, Letts is a solid prose stylist; her vivid descriptions of staid Long Island with its 'gentle meadows ringed by dogwood trees' provide virtual tours, but it is de Leyer's realization of the American dream that is the real story. Photos. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Elizabeth Letts is the award-winning author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and one children’s book, The Butter Man. Quality of Care was a Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Books-A-Million Book Club selection. An equestrian from childhood, Letts represented California as a junior equestrian, and was runner-up in the California Horse and Rider of the Year competition. She currently lives with her husband and four children in Baltimore, Maryland.
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