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The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  8,878 Ratings  ·  1,340 Reviews
Harry de Leyer first saw the horse he would name Snowman on a truck bound for the slaughterhouse. The recent Dutch immigrant recognized the spark in the eye of the beaten-up nag and bought him for eighty dollars. On Harry’s modest farm on Long Island, he ultimately taught Snowman how to fly. Here is the dramatic and inspiring rise to stardom
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 29th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jul 06, 2012 Midwest rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
There is a great story here, but you won't find it in this book. This author is not a good writer; what else can I say? What a disappointment after all the rave reviews! Chapters were repetitive, even using the same sentimental phrases, flashbacks, and allusions time and time again. The author really could have benefitted from a strong editor. As if the story didn't tell itself, we are told ad nauseum how we ought to feel. In effusive language, we read what a remarkable story we are being told!

Jul 18, 2012 Wendy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A decent story of a horse who was rescued from a kill pen truck and turned into a champion show jumper. Sounds like a great read, but it was unfortunately poorly written. While the author obviously did her research, she crammed a lot of unnecessary and irrelevant information in the book. My hard cover copy is 280 pages and could easily have been 180. She also jumps around chronologically so at times I found myself lost. She was very repetitive, constantly reminding the reader of tiny, barely sig ...more
M.L. Roberts
On an icy morning in February 1956, Harry De Leyer, a Dutch immigrant with a young family, is hoping to buy a horse at auction, but his car breaks down. When he arrives, the only horses left are the "kills" - already loaded onto the truck bound for the slaughter house. The horses are skittish and afraid, they know. Only the beat-up looking gray horse is calm and not taken by the understandable air of desperation.
Harry - himself a survivor of a slaughter house machine - the Nazi occupation of h
I was very eager to read this story. I thought it was going to be a heart-warming story about a Dutch immigrant and his relationship with the horse he rescued from the knacker.

I should disclose that I am not a horse person but I am an animal lover. I recently read 'Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of the World's Smartest Horse' by Mim Rivas which I loved. And I hoped this would be a similarly heartwarming story about a man and his horse.

Unfortunately what could have been a great story was i
Brenda Knight
Jul 29, 2012 Brenda Knight rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have loved horses my whole life. I read mostly westerns or horse stories right through high school. I can't believe I never heard about this amazing horse. As soon as I read the cover, I knew I HAD to have and read this book. I truely enjoyed the whole story. I really appreciated all of the photographs in the book also. It made me feel as if I knew the characters personally. Harry was an absolute natural with horses. He connected with them on a deeply personal level. I would have loved to watc ...more
Oct 19, 2011 Peg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I found this book at Costco, I knew I had to buy it. Harry de Leyer is an immigrant who, along with his wife Johanna, left Holland after WWII, having survived the Nazi occupation of their homeland. They came, as did many others, seeking the opportunity and freedom of the United States. Relegated to menial jobs, Harry was eventually able to use his experience and expertise with horses to secure a job as the instructor for equestrian activities at a prestigious girls' school on Long Island.

4.5 stars
Harry DeLeyer saw something in the big grey plowhorse and took a chance on him. Snowman spent his life repaying that belief and never let the quiet man down. Together they chased their dreams and learned to fly together.
A true story of determination and a lot of heart this book takes you back to a time when horse shows were for the elite.This unlikely pair break into that world and capture the heart of nation who needed someone to root for. Harry and Snowman become heroes, a team that
Jul 06, 2012 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not just a book, it is a story - a true story - about a man who picked a horse from a truck bound for the slaughter house, purchased him for eighty dollars in 1956, and went on win the National Horse Show open jumper championship at Madison Square Garden in 1958.

The horse, nicknamed Snowman, was an old plow horse - big, gray and gentle. The man, Harry de Leyer, an immigrant from Holland, began using the horse for lessons at an all girls boarding school. He was a gentle, predictable and s
Tanja Berg
Aug 23, 2011 Tanja Berg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, horses
I knew some of the story of "Snowman" the plough horse turned champion from before. I believe it was a cartoon in some horse magazine I read as a child, and one of those stories with enough substance to be remembered. When this book came out, I ordered it immediately. Then it just sat there in my shelf, eyeing me accusingly.

Finally, after several years, I decided to read it since I wasn't getting anywhere with Kate Atkinson. After reading the first few pages, I knew I would love it. It was eleg
Jun 27, 2011 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a free book from the GoodReads First Read Giveaway. It is the story about a four legged hero named Snowman and his owner Harry de Leyer. Not only is it a heart warming story about the special bond between the two but it is also a true story that gives historical facts that are quite interesting (especially if you are from Suffolk County, NY). I highly recommend it to anyone that loves history, a good story and most of all, horses.
I won this in a GoodReads giveaway!

This is an advance uncorrected proof, so, although there were minor errors in the editing, I will not be judging those -- I'm sure they'll be fixed in the official release.

This book was just great. It has anything you could want in a book -- overcoming adversity, life and death situations, achieving your dreams through hard work and a bit of luck, and horses!

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love horses. They were the biggest (and best) part of my life for
Jun 02, 2011 Kristin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation is about a man and a horse. I know, that sounds super corny and we’ve heard that said a million times about a man and a fill-in-the-blank. But this really is.

First, let me say that I am not a fan of the horse industry. Horses used for sport, and animals in general, are too often treated as throwaways (former Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand, was sold for human consumption in Japan in 2002) and suffer catastrophic injuries (rem
Jan 21, 2016 Elizabeth☮ rated it really liked it
Harry deLeyer immigrated to the States after surviving war-torn Holland. He and his wife build a home for themselves here in the U.S. deLeyer's talent is with horses and so he finds his way to training young girls at a private school.

One day deLeyer travels to Pennsylvania to the largest horse auction in the states. While there, he saves a horse from the slaughterhouse. The price: $80. This horse is snowman and he is a retired field horse. But when deLeyer sells him off to a neighbor down the r
Isabel Roman
Poorly done. Rather than take the greatness of an underdog on the equestrian circuit, Ms. Letts expounded on the New York area's history, the arena, the school and students who attended (and their drivers, clothes, activities, etc), the horse bits, the competitors, the journalists, the newspapers’ history for God's sake! I don't care about them.

I want to read about the plow horse and the Dutch immigrant who made horse jumping history; about Snowman’s jumping itself, not the closest challenger;
May 10, 2014 Melodie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love animal stories. And if they are true stories, that's even better. This was a good story. Snowman, or Snowy as he was called by his family was destined for the slaughterhouse. But Harry de Leyer saw something in Snowy's calm brown eyes that made him take a chance on the broken down horse.
Harry knew a little something about second chances. He lived through World War II, and came to the States with very little money but a wealth of horse and farming knowledge and a dream of a better life.
Aug 08, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: animal lovers
I'm no horse jumping guru or even fan, but who can pass up a well-written story about a lovable animal who just missed the knackers? Not me. And I was not disappointed. I looked forward to listening to this audiobook each evening. I had no idea that the famous Flying Dutchman referred to Snowman's rider and owner. The story also chronicles how competitive horse events went from small payouts to large payouts within a couple years.

I recommend to animal-loving readers. Easy read, not very long.
Phoebe Delisle
As a former horse rider I was very eager to read this book. Unfortunately I was very disappointed by the way the story was told. The book alternated between long passages of historical references and would then jump back into the story of Harry and Snowman. It was awkward and didn't seem to flow. When the author wrote about the horseshows it was monotonous and tedious. They were all written exactly the same way. I might as well have been re-reading the same passages over and over. The book itsel ...more
Aug 02, 2013 Tasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this story of beautiful sweet Snowman and the man who loved him. What a bond they shared and what a wonderful horse! The story itself is not the most engaging one as the writing was a bit dry at times, but overall an interesting story. I am seeking out the book for kids. I see there is a new release coming this summer.
Dec 15, 2011 Josephine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
One star for writing a book so popular about an activity and a period that not all readers know about. One star for making me tear up when Snowman had to be put down. (Don't worry: he was twenty-six, a respectable age for a horse that had worked so hard throughout its lifetime. Trust me, show jumping at Snowman's level is every bit as stressful as pulling a plow.)

Minus a star for anthropomorphising Snowman as much as she did--ascribing human emotions to an animal to that degree gets up my nose.
Sep 23, 2012 Barb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First let me say that I read nearly every horse book ever written as a child, every dog book, every raccoon book, every animal book. As an adult, I am still a sucker for a good animal story. And this is a GREAT animal story. I cried when Snowman died (don't worry - of old age) because I had become so attached to the horse. The writing is fine - the author is knowledgable about horses, horse jumping, and adds some nice historical facts about the times, the sport, and horses in America that are fu ...more
Jan 19, 2014 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
True story, very interesting but I think a lot was added just to fill a book.
Sep 27, 2011 Sunny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

From my review/blog

When Harry de Leyer arrived at the weekly Holland, Pennsylvania horse auction, he was late. It was February 1956. He had driven through rough weather from Long Island, New York, in a station wagon with bad lights and one tire that had gone flat. The only one left at the auction was “Killer,” the man who waited every week until the auction’s end to buy all the unsold animals. These he’d load onto his truck and take to the slaughterhouse. Harry had
Apr 22, 2012 Mirrani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The Eighty Dollar Champion is a book that is both easy to explain and hard to describe. It tells the story of the famous horse Snowman and his owner Harry de Leyer who jumped their way into the hearts of Americans in the mid 50’s. The story itself is not unique; a man from another country comes to America and works hard at what he loves, finds a diamond in the rough and together the two of them soar to the stars. In a time where we find bo
May 09, 2017 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an unbelievable story!
Marjorie Thelen
Dec 01, 2012 Marjorie Thelen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a true rags-to-riches story about a plow horse saved from the slaughterhouse in 1956 by a Dutch immigrant to the U.S., Harry de Leyer. Harry's kids named the horse Snowman because he had snow all over him when he stepped off the slaughter house truck on their small farm on Long Island, New York. Snowman went on to become in 1958 Horse of the Year, the Professional Horseman’s Association Champion and the Champion of the Madison Square Garden’s Diamond Jubilee. Letts tells the entire story ...more
Jun 26, 2011 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x-read-in-2011
Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation is the subtitle of this book but it doesn't tell the whole story. This is also a book about Harry de Leyer, an immigrant from Holland, who arrived in the United States with his wife, $160, and the dream of a better life than was possible in the Nazi occupied country he left. Harry's story is every bit as inspiring as that of Snowman.

The horse show scenes became just a little bit repetitive in telling the champion's tale but then horse shows are for all
Nov 02, 2011 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I think this quote sums it up best... "Together they(Harry de Leyer and Snowman)represented the attitude of America: with skill, a little luck, a lot of grit, and most of all a belief that big dreams can come true" you can achieve anything. A very up lifting story of how an old plow horse bound for the 'glue factory' and a Dutch immigrant fleeing war torn Holland beat the odds and inspired a nation!!! Highly recommend!!!
Jan 13, 2012 Sandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I was expecting a book about a champion show jumper. Instead much of the book was devoted to describing the Knox School For Girls and high society of the time.
May 19, 2013 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How did I not know about this horse.....this book? What a fabulous read for the horse lover, underdog supporter, history buff. Best book of the year.
Jun 06, 2012 Taryn rated it it was amazing
Heart-warming, touching, inspiring...unbelievable! A story that will uplift your soul. An amazing tale of sensitivity and endurance, of trust and perseverance. Truly a gem.
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Around the Year i...: The Eighty Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired A Nation, by Elizabeth Letts 1 7 Feb 17, 2017 11:32PM  
A Million More Pages: NF BR - The Eighty-Dollar Champion (Nov 10) 25 19 Nov 23, 2015 08:55AM  
9 year old? 5 38 Jan 15, 2015 05:13AM  
Snowman 7 80 Aug 05, 2014 05:42AM  
? 2 49 Oct 29, 2011 02:12PM  
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ELIZABETH LETTS is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, winner of the 2012 Daniel P Lenehan Award for Media Excellence from the United States Equestrian Foundation. She is also the author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and an award-winning children's book, The Butter Man. She majored in history at Yale, where she studied creative writing with ...more
More about Elizabeth Letts...

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“Some small and very specialized breeding operations bred saddle horses for hunter and jumper competitions—these tended to be small-scale operations owned by wealthy private breeders who kept one or two horses at stud.” 1 likes
“When English author Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty, in the late nineteenth century, she said that her aim was to “induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.” Though now considered a children’s classic, the book was originally intended for an adult audience. Narrated from the horse’s point of view, the novel describes Black Beauty’s life, from his earliest memory, of “a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it” to his wretched existence pulling a heavy load for a cruel peddler. The sentimental and emotionally wrenching book was wildly popular, quickly becoming a bestseller first in England and then in the United States, where it became a favorite of the progressive movement. Sewell’s book was the first to popularize interest in the plight of the horse and to generate widespread concern about the beast of burden’s treatment.” 1 likes
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