Snowman originally was used for farm work and in 1956 was headed for the slaughterhouse at eight years of age. On that day, Harry de Leyer, a Long Island, New York riding instructor, attended a Pennsylvania horse auction looking for school horses. He arrived late, and the only remaining horses were the "rejects", loaded into trucks bound for the dog food and glue slaughter house. De Leyer made eye contact with a large gray horse that he purchased for $80. He first used Snowman as a lesson horse for children. De Leyer recognized talent in the horse after he sold him to a neighbor and the horse jumped high fences to return "home." De Leyer then began training Snowman as a show jumper.
The horse began winning prestigious classes only two years after he was bought off the slaughter truck and his career lasted five years. He willingly jumped over other horses, and his calm disposition made him a favorite: he once won a leadline class and an open jumper championship on the same day.
Snowman also appeared on television shows (Johnny Carson's for one, where Carson climbed on his back). He was the subject of two books, had his own fan club, and was flown abroad for "guest appearances."
De Leyer kept Snowman through his retirement until his humane euthanasia due to complications from kidney failure at the age of twenty-six.
Snowman got into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2005, Snowman has been made into a Breyer horse model on the Gem Twist mold, which is no longer manufactured. In 2013, Snowman was again introduced in the Breyer line on the Idocus mold. The 2013 model box reads "Snowman- Show Jumping Hall of Famer".
Snowman is the subject of the book Eighty Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts, published by Random House in 2011.