Customer Reviews


837 Reviews
5 star:
 (597)
4 star:
 (142)
3 star:
 (52)
2 star:
 (35)
1 star:
 (11)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


180 of 186 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Challenge of a Second Chance
Like the author of this lovely book, I was a horse-crazy little girl and one of the books I remember reading is SNOWMAN by Rutherford Montgomery. Therefore I'm thrilled that Snowman's story is being rescued from the dustbin of children's lit and being told again with greater detail and accuracy. I especially like the way Elizabeth Letts paints a complete picture of...
Published on August 6, 2011 by Miz Ellen

versus
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I rode Snowman as a child
I was a 10 and 11 year old girl in love with horses when my parents agreed to give me lessons. We lived on the south shore of Long Island, about 45 minutes from the de Layer farm, but Harry de Layer was chosen to be my teacher. Snowman, not yet a champion, was one of the horses Mr. de Layer used to teach eager children like me. Mr. de Layer taught me that if I were a...
Published on January 26, 2012 by Dreamer


‹ Previous | 1 284 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

180 of 186 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Challenge of a Second Chance, August 6, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like the author of this lovely book, I was a horse-crazy little girl and one of the books I remember reading is SNOWMAN by Rutherford Montgomery. Therefore I'm thrilled that Snowman's story is being rescued from the dustbin of children's lit and being told again with greater detail and accuracy. I especially like the way Elizabeth Letts paints a complete picture of Snowman's time. This is history not just a horse story; a portrait of the America that embraced the former plow horse and his immigrant owner, Harry De Leyer, also known as "The Flying Dutchman".

This is the stuff of horsemen's dreams: to literally pull a thin and dirty horse off the slaughter truck and train him to become a champion. That is the true story of Snowman.

Could any book have a more charming hero? Snowman sparkles in these pages, a quiet gentle giant who gave pony rides to little children and taught timid beginners not to be afraid. He's so loyal that he repeatedly jumps both paddock and pasture fences to return to the man who rescued him from the slaughter truck. Harry De Leyer is a young horseman with a growing family who desperately desires to run his own horse business. He's looking for that magic horse who can take him to the top.

He'd been training a top thoroughbred prospect, Sinjon. In 1957, Harry persuaded the owner of the horse to take him to the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden. Sinjon, a nervous and hot-blooded animal, exceeded expectations by jumping out of the qualifying rounds to place fourth. That very success was Harry's undoing: he loses the mount he has carefully and lovingly trained to a rider on the U.S. Equestrian Team.

He goes home to take another look at the horse he rescued off the slaughterhouse truck, the horse that came home dragging a tire which had been supposed to anchor him down and a piece of the fence that had been supposed to contain him. Harry knew that Snowman could jump; he just didn't understand why the horse was so clumsy in the ring.

Snowman routinely tripped over poles on the ground and knocked over low cross rails. Harry had been trying to train him to jump for over a year. The breakthrough came when one day Harry rode out into the ring. The jumps had already been set high for another horse. Finishing his warmup, Harry pointed his former plow horse at the high jumps...and the rest is history!

If I have a criticism, it is that the author has left out and glossed over some of the story about the humans. For example, she doesn't explain why Harry De Leyer and his first wife get divorced. However, I'm not sure she's wrong to leave that out. When it comes to Snowman, she has ferreted out many charming facts and features of his personality. When you are telling a story about a horse with a heart of gold is it necessary to explain every imperfection in the people around him?

Horse people will love this book. Snowman in his lovable essence will remind them of that favorite, special horse of their own. Folks who love animals in general will love this story. If you are in search of inspiration, look no further! This is a book for the entire family.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I rode Snowman as a child, January 26, 2012
By 
Dreamer (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was a 10 and 11 year old girl in love with horses when my parents agreed to give me lessons. We lived on the south shore of Long Island, about 45 minutes from the de Layer farm, but Harry de Layer was chosen to be my teacher. Snowman, not yet a champion, was one of the horses Mr. de Layer used to teach eager children like me. Mr. de Layer taught me that if I were a gentle, kind rider, I could learn invaluable lessons about courage and accomplishment. Snowman rewarded me with an extraordinary personal experience and an amazing example that, in life, anything is possible if you are willing to try. I was outraged to read a one star review, a personal attack by a local person who says Harry De Layer abused his horses. I absolutely do not believe that and wonder what part jealousy and bigotry may have played to influence the writer of that review and/or his own riding teachers. Mr. de Layer always insisted that his horses be treated well. His message was to learn to trust the horse, trust myself and to find the rhythm between the horse's spirit and my own. I was a tiny girl, Snowman was a very big horse and Mr. de Layer and Snowman taught me not only how to enjoy jumping and showing, but also a great deal about myself and life in general. I am so grateful to have known them both and my life has been richer for it. I am now 65 and have shared this story with my children and grandchildren. Mr. de Layer and Snowman are still teaching my family about the spirit of kindness and courage.

I wish I could recommend the book as highly as I do Mr. de Layer. I found it quite shallow and very repetitive. Letts tells us about Snowman and Harry de Layer, but doesn't allow us to get to know them. They are worth getting to know. Her emphasis, over and over, is on the "fleabitten" horse,"immigrant small farmer," and an overblown emphasis on class distinctions. These points may have some validity, but Harry and Snowman are both so very much more than that. In my opinion, Harry de Layer and Snowman are still waiting for the book they deserve.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a fun, warm, exciting story!, August 3, 2011
By 
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really have to hand it to the author here! She really had me going when she wrote about the competitions in this book, they were SO exciting!

The book was beautifully, done, and on so many levels! The horse's owner, Harry, had lived through wartime with the Nazi occupation, which colored (rightly so) many of his thoughts and feelings about things.

This book tells of him taking a huge chance on this horse that was bound for the knacker's yard. $80 was a good bit of money back then, for someone in his economic position. But his instinct won out, and he purchased the horse, and took him home. He was used as a lesson horse to teach riding, until they pretty much accidentally found out what a jumper he was. The story is just beautifully told by the author all the way through.

There are lots of things to learn throughout the book about immigrants coming to this country and working hard at what they knew best, in order to finally make good. There are lots of different bits of information about many different things; different lifestyles, details about a girl's school, as well as lots of information on the horse jumping circuits. This is one of those books that teaches you lots of information, but in such a fun and exciting way that you don't realize you are actually learning (which is my favorite way to do it)!

This book is interesting, entertaining and exciting. I highly recommend it, and am really glad I found this book and read it. A great, heartwarming read. Wonderful horse, wonderful man and wonderful story!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Might make a lesson horse...", August 11, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Breed the best to the best and hope for the best," is an adage in the horse world. Generally, this is sound advice. But every now and then, an otherwise unremarkable looking horse comes along and beats the odds. Inner qualities, like "heart", as well as hard work and a strong bond between horse and rider, can make a champion. While this sounds like the stuff of Disney movies, there are plenty of real life examples - in all equine disciplines.

"The Eighty-Dollar Champion" is the story of Snowman, a former plow horse and glue factory refugee, who was rescued by Harry De Leyer, a Dutch immigrant and trainer for a private girls' school. Although De Leyer felt an indescribable connection from the first, he also thought Snowman might make a good addition to the lesson string. And while Snowman certainly proved himself as a bombproof horse for beginners, as well as a cherished pet for the De Leyer children, much bigger things were in store.

De Leyer had long wanted to compete at the "A" show level with a goal of making it all the way to Madison Square Garden. When it was discovered that Snowman enjoyed jumping high fences without a rider on his back, De Leyer turned his attention to training the horse. The qualities that made people skeptical that Snowman would succeed - such as an unflappable disposition (fancy show horses tend to be high-strung), turned out to be an asset, and Snowman wound up flourishing in the spotlight - while still working as a lesson horse in the off-show season.

Letts does a superb job of bringing the ritzy show jumping world to life. The story is set in the fifties and sixties, when the US was changing economically, and the new medium of television altered how horse shows (and news) was presented. As she writes, it was a period in history when Americans were looking for an underdog hero to cheer on. And when one like Snowman comes along, it's a story worth telling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


132 of 158 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly superficial, August 7, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I wanted to love this book. I read the children's book, Snowman, back in the '60's, as a horse crazy girl and have always remembered the inspiring story. It was particularly meaningful to me at the time as I was one of the few middle-class riding students at a fancy hunt club, competing with expensive hunters on a $200 grade mare. But, Elizabeth Letts' retelling of the story failed to satisfy.

This book is all over the place, jumping from one topic to another and back again. For example, consider the contents of Chapter 14, which, in the space of 3 pages, touches on the lifestyles of the rich, the differences between amateurs and professionals competing on the horse show circuit, The National Horse Show and its place in the show circuit, Harry de Leyer's work ethic, the oppressive nature of the era, the Devon horse show, the changing nature of upper class society in Philadelphia, commencement activities at the Knox school and Snowman's participation, and the difference between Snowman and flighty Thoroughbreds. If a book could induce whiplash, this one would do it.

The book is very repetitive. If I had a dime for every time the author told us that the jumper classes are judged solely on objective, rather than subjective, measures, that Snowman was a cast off plow horse, or that "the rich, they're not like you and me," I could buy myself a nice dinner.

Also, I feel like the author played just a bit loose with the facts in order to enhance the story. For example, in multiple places in the book, she emphasized that the show jumping team that represented the US at the Olympics and international competitions was composed of rich amateurs riding well-bred expensive horses, contrasting those kings of the show jumping world with Snowman, the plain old plow horse of humble origins. Yet, she fails to acknowledge that Nautical, a successful show jumper with the US team who is mentioned in the book, had equally humble origins.

Finally, perhaps most dismaying, this book is a very superficial retelling of Snowman's story. Based on "A Note About Sources," the "Notes" and the bibliography at the end of the book, the author conducted extensive research, including long interviews with Harry de Leyer himself. Yet, I don't feel like I know Harry de Leyer, Snowman, or the de Leyer family much better than I did before I started the book.

Do I recommend this book? Maybe. If you read the children's book about Snowman and loved it, you might want to read this book. If you were active in the hunter/jumper world in the late '50's or '60's or followed the sport during that time, you might enjoy the book. If I say to you, "George Morris, Frank Chapot, and Bill Steinkraus" and you know immediately who those men are, you might consider picking up a copy. I'm not sorry that I spent the time it took to read the book, just disappointed that it was not as good as it could have been.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't have to be a Jumper to enjoy this book!!, August 13, 2011
By 
Jay (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Interestingly, I'd never heard of Snowman, even though my daughter has been an avid jumper for several years. When I picked up the book, I thought I would just be reading another story about some obscure horse who was admired by the folks in the business (like most race horse stories). However, as it turns out from the story, Snowman and his rider greatly influenced the horse jumping world by showing that a person didn't have to be in the elite class with the most expensive horses and gear to be a winner.

The book starts out a bit slow, but never boring, because although Letts has to make the story accessible to non-horse people (which she does an excellent job of), she intersperses it with the real story often enough to keep the reader involved. Soon enough, Snowman the Incredible Plowhorse is winning ribbons and gaining attention, resulting in a steady increase in fame as he jumps his way into championship after championship. Soon, even ordinary people start watching the competitions to root for the eighty dollar horse going up against $50,000 horses. A heartwarming tale... I thought it embodied the American 'rags to riches' ideal pretty well.

Furthermore, it was even easier to relate to the characters in the book, because halfway through reading, I found out that my daughter knows one of Harry de Leyer's sons, who trains jumpers in the Houston area.

I definitely recommend this book!!

All the best,

Jay
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering, August 25, 2011
By 
Mary (Springfield, Virginia) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Perhaps I am not the best person to write a review because I remember seing Snowman at the National Horse Show. My father was unemployed and I was a horse crazy kid and I so wanted to see this wonderful horse. The newspapers were full of his "underdog story". My parents were first generation Ukrainian American and they too were interested in the story of Harry de Leyer. Money was the problem and I knew better then to ask. One day, my mother dressed me in my good clothes and my father took me to New York City (we lived in Paramus, NJ) and on that special day in 1958 I saw Snowman win the championship at the National Horse Show. The author described everything so perfectly - the evening dress, the horses - her words brought back so many memories of the National Horse Show. I was one of those folks up in the "blue smoke" but I did not get to eat a hot dog. Snowman is also responsible for my improvement in my reading skills. I wanted to read everything about this horse, so my parents found articles and I had to read them. Now for the book, the author brings back so many memories of the 1950's and 1960's for me since I grew up in those years. The beginning of the United States Equestrian team, the Cold War, space race, John F Kennedy and much more. I loved the book. There were times I think that the author gave too much information on horse population when I really wanted to get into the story of Snowman and Harry. It dragged a little. Once you get into Snowman's story, then the really good reading begins. You get the story of a relationship between horse and rider and the horse show circuit at that time. I wish there were more pictures of Harry and Snowman in the book. Please read this book - what is so special is that this is a true story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, October 2, 2011
By 
T. Gaston (Austin, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Having never heard the story of this horse, I was intrigued by the title, and pleasantly surprised by this interesting read. Ms. Letts' conveys not only Snowman's story, but that of his owner, Harry de Leyer and many background insights. Harry's own story is amazing, growing up during World War II and surviving the Nazi occupation of his village. She also includes much background on horse history, especially jumping horse competitions. And information about the changing times of the late 50s and early 60s, which helped launch Snowman into a national and international spotlight. The book is not only interesting from a historical perspective, it is very uplifting and motivational.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgic "beach book" for the Winter Circuit . . ., October 4, 2011
By 
Kashin (East Coast USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'm old enough to remember Fairfield, Ox Ridge and The Garden in their heyday, and remember watching many of these horses and riders jump. The "Galloping Grandfather" always got a standing ovation! This book is a delicious nostalgic trip down Memory Lane which I am delighted to recommend to anyone who loves a good horse story or just wants to read something fun for a change.

I also completely disagree with those reviewers here who thought the author's "digressions" into the realities of the horse business, the late fifties' socio-economic milieu, etc. detracted from the story. Rather, they're what elevates this book well beyond mere sentimental "Disney" fare. This author knows her subject and did meticulous research. Remember it's intended for the general reader, not necessarily just equestrians.

Minor quibble on the editing; the author could have organized her material a little tighter, and perhaps lightened up on the sweetness, but this is a feel-good book meant to be read for not-too-challenging pleasure. Take it with you for that nervous night before your Big Class in Florida this winter. You'll appreciate your own horse all the more after reading about Snowman. Enjoy!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Been A Winner, Instead Falls Flat, September 4, 2011
By 
Trish (Baltimore, MD, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I really wanted to love this book, so much so, that I put a special hold on it at my library so I could get it when it first came out. Unfortunately, the writing style was so poor it overwhelmed what should have been a great book.
I read a lot and some of what I read are cozy mysteries and occasionally some Chick-lit, and while these are not the paragon of good writing I know that going in, and read them for what they are; mind candy and a diversion, I expected much more from this non-fiction book.

Letts provides no dramatic tension whatsoever. The story plods on and on and drips with sentimentality. She tells us over and over again that Snowman is not a looker, but cleans up well, and waxes on about how Snowman is gentle, friendly and nothing fazes him. She also tells us again and again how patient Harry is, what a hard worker he is and how he dares to dream big. I think I got it after the first time she told us this. By the time I got to page 148 I just couldn't take it anymore, and because we all know upfront (so this isn't a spoiler) that Snowman wins the National Horse Championship I just gave up and skimmed the rest.

The basic story can actually be summed up by the cartoon on page 216 by William Mullin which appeared in the World Telegram and Sun on the eve of the 1958 National Horse Show. My suggestion is to go to your local bookstore, find this book, go to this page and read it instead of the whole book-save yourself some time and money.

This is great rags to riches story, and in the hands of a better writer it could have been a great book. Maybe it will make a better movie.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 284 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts (Paperback - May 29, 2012)
$16.00 $12.56
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.