The man that became a legend for turning an old plow horse into show horse royalty has died. Harry deLeyer of Stanardsville, VA passed at an assisted living facility on June 25, 2021, according to The New York Times. He was 93.
Harry de Leyer
… Despite his sorry condition, a spark of life lit up the gray’s eyes …
… He handed over the eighty dollars and never looked back …
Snowman was a wonderful mount for children and became part of the de Leyer family. Since he had a knack for jumping out of paddocks his under saddle training over fences began.
At first, things didn’t look too promising, until the fences were large enough for Snowman to appreciate.
In 1958, Snowman won the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year, Professional Horseman’s Association Champion, and was the Champion at Madison Square Garden.
Although the pair moonlighted as showjumping champions impressively they kept their day jobs. Snowman as a lesson horse for the children and de Leyer as a riding instructor.
According to de Leyer, the day he met Snowman was the luckiest day of his life.
Letts says de Leyer, who is now in his early 80s is still training horses and teaching riding lessons at his Nederland Farms, located in Virginia. “He is a remarkable man with a legendary impact on so many.”
Meredith (Whipple) Smith began riding with de Leyer in the early 70s at the age of twelve. She attributes her passion and success as a rider to him, “He definitely made me the horse person I am today.”
Smith says she remembers de Leyer’s gift for choosing great horses, “Every one of them was so safe. BIG confidence builders!”
A foundation of good basics, horsemanship and plain hard work was taught under de Layer’s watch. He used to say, “Medadin, keep your feet in your pedals!” Meaning, “Meredith, keep your feet in your stirrups!”
She recalls Snowman as king of the farm, “What a bond he and Harry had. I used to love watching him ride Snowman. They just knew what each other was thinking.”
Smith says she had the honor of working for de Leyer when she was in her 20s when he had Dutch Crown, another one of his champions. “Harry de Leyer’s name will live on forever as a real true horseman. Wish there were so many more like him.”
The Eighty-Dollar Champion goes on sale today. When you purchase the book you will be helping other repurposed horses. Specifically, those helping people with disabilities. A portion of the proceeds from the book’s sales will go to the 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program of Carroll County Maryland.
This article was last updated on July 24, 2021.
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