June 23, 2005 — The Show Jumping Hall of Fame inducted the legendary horse Snowbound at its annual induction ceremonies during intermission at the Budweiser American Invitational on April 2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Snowbound joins 54 previous inductees.
Snowbound was a mediocre, unsound racehorse, kicking around Northern California in the early 1960s who went on to make history by carrying Bill Steinkraus to the first individual Olympic Gold Medal ever won by a U.S. rider in 1968. Discovered by John (later Sir John) Galvin as a green hunter being shown by Show Jumping Hall of Famer Barbara Worth Oakford, who had bought him off the racetrack, Snowbound was presented as a gift to his daughter, Olympic dressage rider Patricia, and loaned to the U.S. Equestrian Team for Steinkraus to ride.
A brown gelding just over 16 hands in height and foaled in 1958, Snowbound was by Hail Victory out of Gay Alvena and had jumping blood on both sides of his pedigree. He was precocious from the start and equally at home indoors and out, though he was never much at home in heavy footing. In 1965, he won the Nations’ Cups of London and Dublin, the Grand Prix of New York, and helped the U.S. win two more Nations’ Cups. The following year he won the Grand Prix at Harrisburg and Democrat Trophy in New York and contributed to another Nations’ Cup victory.
Always threatened by recurrence of the tendon trouble that had driven him from the track, Snowbound was too valuable to the Team to risk in ordinary classes and was shown lightly. In 1968, he jumped double clears in all of the European Nations’ Cups in which he competed. At the Olympics, he jumped one of only two clear rounds in the first round of the individual competition and incurred only a single fault over the huge fences of the second round to win the Gold.
In 1970, Snowbound won four individual competitions in Europe but ended up sidelined for most of 1971. His preparations to defend his Olympic title in 1972 went well, but he failed to qualify for the second round in the individual competition at the Olympics, and Steinkraus rode Main Spring on the silver medal-winning U.S. team.
After the 1972 Olympics, Snowbound was retired to the Galvins’ farm outside Dublin. Though Snowbound didn’t set any endurance records, he combined remarkable gymnastic ability with a stubborn determination not to hit fences.
“I am thrilled that Snowbound has been inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, for I think he truly belongs,” said Steinkraus. “Like all great horses, Snowbound was very much a one-off, a totally unique individual, with a very distinctive personality. He was not the fastest horse I ever rode, nor the strongest, nor could he jump the biggest puissance fence, and he certainly didn’t have the easiest temperament. However, the bigger the occasion, the more he rose to it, and he never gave up.
“I’ve wracked my brain for a long time trying to formulate a short description that did him justice,” he continued, “but the best I can come up with is this simple statement: If my very life depended on jumping a clear round over the biggest, trickiest, most technical jumper course I can imagine, the horse I would want to be riding would be Snowbound at his best.”
For more information, visit the Show Jumping Hall of Fame website.