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From $80 Plow Horse to Superstar

Today, Bonnie Spitzmiller lives quietly in Vero Beach. But, long ago, she rode a horse that startled the world.

Bonnie Spitzmiller once rode Snowman, the legendary horse that is the subject of a new book. An animal lover all her life, Bonnie is a volunteer at the local Humane Society and is co-chairing this year’s Cause for Paws charity event at the Vero Beach Museum of Art on March 29-30.

Bonnie Spitzmiller once rode Snowman, the legendary horse that is the subject of a new book. An animal lover all her life, Bonnie is a volunteer at the local Humane Society and is co-chairing this year’s Cause for Paws charity event at the Vero Beach Museum of Art on March 29-30.

When Bonnie Spitzmiller was a student at the Knox School on Long Island in the late 1950s, she was a standout in the school’s equestrian program. As a 17-year-old she made her highest jump – at 5 feet 6 inches – on the sturdy back of a grey gelding named Snowman, owned by her instructor Harry deLeyer.

The man, a poor immigrant from Holland, was a gifted horse trainer; the horse, despite an earlier career as a plebeian plow horse, was a natural jumper. Against all odds, both the man and the horse, figuratively and literally, leaped to the peak of one of the most prestigious sporting events of their time, the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden.

Now they are the subject of a new book, The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired A Nation. Bonnie is not only mentioned prominently in the extraordinary story, she was also a major source of information for its author, Elizabeth Letts.

Read the entire article in the February 2012 issue