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Harry de Leyer & Elizabeth Letts to Discuss Snowman at National Sporting Library

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  • Harry de Leyer & Elizabeth Letts to Discuss Snowman at National Sporting Library

    Lecture: “The Eighty Dollar Champion: A Horse, a Man, and the Dream That Inspired a Nation,” Elizabeth Letts and Harry de Leyer, Friday, August 27, 2 p.m., National Sporting Library & Museum, 102 The Plains Rd., Middleburg, Va. 20117, www.nsl.org. Free, RSVP to Elizabeth Tobey, 540-687-6542 x 11 or etobey@nsl.org.

    Author Elizabeth Letts, of Chadds Ford, Pa., and horse rider and trainer Harry de Leyer of Charlottesville, Va., will give an informal roundtable discussion about Snowman, the $80 horse that became a national champion show jumper in the 1950’s. This free program will be held at the National Sporting Library & Museum in Middleburg, Va., on Friday, August 27 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.nsl.org.

    The beloved show jumper is now the subject of a full-length book, “The Eighty Dollar Champion,” by Elizabeth Letts, forthcoming from Ballantine Books this summer. The book, based in part, on Letts’ research as a John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum, is a celebration of Snowman and an exploration of the factors and forces that shaped the sport of show jumping in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, a time that some refer to as The Golden Age of Show Jumping. The Daniels Fellowship sponsors scholars and researchers working on projects related to the Library’s collections on horse and field sports. The lecture is part of the Library’s Fellows’ Roundtable series where Daniels Fellows discuss their research-in-progress.

    In February 1956, Harry de Leyer arrived late at the auction in New Holland, Pa. He had gone there to look for a quiet school horse for his pupils. When he arrived there were only a few stragglers left-- horses that had already been loaded onto the truck bound for the slaughterhouse. Something about one horse caught his eye and he asked the driver to unload that horse so he could take a closer look. The big gray was dirty, thin, and missing a shoe, but de Leyer paid $80 dollars for him. Maybe with a bit of luck, the gray would clean up and make a good lesson horse. When he got the horse home, de Leyer discovered that the horse had a gift-- he was a natural born jumper. Eighteen months later, the pair stood under the spotlights at Madison Square Garden: Snowman had captured the National Open Jumper Championship and, along the way, stolen the hearts of people across America. Now famous, the ex-plowhorse became the subject of two children's books, appeared on the Johnny Carson show, and toured both Europe and the United States giving exhibitions.

  • #2
    Was Snowman the horse in the Grey Flannel Suit??


    • #3
      Some great Snowman images from Life magazine:









      • #4
        Very cool! Too bad I am not in VA.


        • #5
          Originally posted by gottagrey View Post
          Was Snowman the horse in the Grey Flannel Suit??
          No that was Kathy Kusner's grey horse, the name begins with an "A", but I'm blanking at the moment.
          Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles


          • #6

            Inner Bay Equestrian


            • #7
              Originally posted by SidesaddleRider View Post
              No that was Kathy Kusner's grey horse, the name begins with an "A", but I'm blanking at the moment.
              Don't know if i'm spelling it correctly...but it was Aspercel


              • #8
                In the movie, the horse's name was Aspercel, a pharmaceutical promotion.

                Brief Synopsis Frederick Bolton has to solve two problems. First, his boss has instructed him to come up with a reasonable campaign to promote a new product, a stomach pill named "Aspercel" - by tomorrow. The second problem is Fred's daugther, Helen. She is absolutely fond of horses, takes riding classes and has already had decent success in some competitions. Her biggest wish is to own a horse herself, a dream her father cannot afford at all. Now Fred tries to solve both problems at once by simply combining them: A horse named "Aspercel", ridden by his daugther should bring the name of the pill into the papers and make Helen happy, too. But there's still one more obstacle: Helen and Aspercel of course have to win a few prices to make this idea work... [+] Read full synopsis
                [x] Close full synopsis

                Madison Avenue advertising executive Fred Bolton, a Connecticut widower living beyond his means, is beset by two major problems: first, unless he comes up with a highbrow gimmick to publicize a sour-stomach remedy called Aspercel, his tyrannical boss, Tom Dugan, will fire him; second, his teenaged daughter Helen has run up a $900 bill at Suzie Clemens' riding academy. In the hope of solving both his problems at the same time, Fred gets Dugan to buy a horse, names it Aspercel, and then persuades Suzie to train Helen for all the fashionable horse shows. Helen does begin to win ribbons, but the amount of publicity is below Dugan's expectations. When Helen learns that her father's job is at stake, she falters under pressure and fails to win an important match. Suzie, however, realizes Aspercel's potential when the animal carries Fred over a 7-foot wall and tops that by out-racing a police car. Volunteering to ride Aspercel in the International Horse Show in Washington, Suzie suggests that her ex-fiancé, Archer Madison, be brought in as trainer. Suppressing his jealousy of Archer, Fred reluctantly agrees. As the result, Suzie and Aspercel win the championship, and all ends happily as Fred is rewarded with both a promotion and Suzie's love.
                "If you would have only one day to live, you should spend at least half of it in the saddle."


                • #9
                  Originally posted by M. O'Connor View Post
                  Yes! Aberali it was, thank you. I remembered the horse character's name in the movie (Aspercel), but just couldn't think of what his real name was.
                  Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles


                  • #10
                    Harry de Leyer sold Snowman to a doctor but he (Snowman) jumped a six foot fence to come back home. He also used to jump the courses in the fields by himself. What a wonderful story and so glad that a book has finally been written about him.
                    "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK


                    • #11
                      When I was a kid, one of my favorite books in the school library was Snowman The Cinderella Horse by Tony Pallazzo. I'm looking forward to this new book.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Calamber View Post
                        Harry de Leyer sold Snowman to a doctor but he (Snowman) jumped a six foot fence to come back home. He also used to jump the courses in the fields by himself. What a wonderful story and so glad that a book has finally been written about him.
                        Ohhh, I never heard that story about him jumping the fence!

                        I'm sadly too far away to attend this but I cannot WAIT for the book!!
                        "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


                        • #13
                          Another good book about show jumping in that era is "Fitzrada -- an unlikely champion" (or maybe it's 'the making of an unlikely champion' -- but definately Fitzrada!).

                          Looking forward to the new Snowman book!
                          ...somewhere between the talent and the potato....


                          • #14
                            When I was a kid, Snowman was in all the old issues of the Chronicle. He was a great horse. (As was another favorite, Perfect Stranger.)


                            • #15
                              I used to work for Harry deLeyer. I groomed for him when he rode Dutch Crown. What an honor! I have a copy of Snowman that Harry signed.
                              I don't want to have to do anything I have to do PERFECT the first time!