Book Review: The Eighty-Dollar Champion

By Julie Preble, Assistant Editor

At Horse&Rider, we receive a lot of horse books to review. Unfortunately, many of these books don’t make it to the pages of the magazine. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them!

As an avid reader, I end up reading most of the books that land on my desk. So, I’ve decided to share the books (and my thoughts on them) with you.

The first book I read is The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts.

Here’s a short summary of the story:

In 1956, Harry de Leyer purchased a former plow horse off a kill truck for $80 (about $650 in today’s economy). The quiet-tempered gelding became a favorite of the de Leyer children, who named him Snowman. He earned his keep as a lesson mount at the all-girls’ school where de Leyer taught horseback riding.

Through a series of unfortunate?and rather funny?turn of events, de Leyer discovered Snowman’s jumping talents.

From there, Letts takes the reader through all of Snowman’s training, his first shows, and the 1958 National Horse Show, where he became a champion.

Like Seabiscuit was during the depression era, Snowman was an underdog that ended up inspiring the nation. No matter what your discipline or event, Snowman’s journey from the kill truck to a national championship will inspire you, too.

I really enjoyed reading the gelding’s amazing story. Many times I had to force myself to put the book down!

It’s very well written, and the accompanying photography really adds to the story.

I highly recommend this book to any horse lover?just make sure you have some tissues handy.

The Eighty-Dollar Champion is available at

Learn more about the story in this video with Elizabeth Letts.

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