In the good moments, Monique Snowden was known as a warm and caring woman. Acquaintances recall her being gracious and kind, often smiling, and above all that she had a great passion for her daily work with horses.
But there were dark moments, too, brought on by past heartaches and by more recent troubles. And after a Sunday tragedy that was for her both personal and professional, the dark moments prevailed.
The 37-year-old Snowden, a 1997 graduate of Snohomish High School (she was Monique Simon then), was a trainer at Auburn’s Emerald Downs race track. One of her horses, a highly promising 2-year-old named The Chilli Man, suffered a broken leg during Sunday’s $50,000 Emerald Express race and was subsequently euthanized.
Later that night, Snowden evidently jumped to her death from the Kummer Bridge over the Green River between Auburn and Enumclaw, a fall of about 160 feet. Her body was found the next afternoon near the bottom of the bridge.
Though the King County medical examiner’s office has yet to officially confirm a suicide, there is little doubt among those who knew her at Emerald Downs and among other friends about what happened.
“Naturally we’re all devastated by this,” track spokesman Vince Bruun said. “It’s heartbreaking that someone so young and vibrant and with seemingly so much to live for … it’s just tragic.”
She was, he added, “very charming and effervescent. She was really a delight.”
Her husband, Dennis Snowden of Enumclaw, says his wife had an extraordinary commitment to the horses in her care. Her days would begin at 4 a.m. and usually continue until 7 p.m., and in those hours “she was diligent about everything. A lot of trainers have grooms that do all the therapy and do things like give medications to the horses, but she did everything herself.
“These horses were her life,” added Dennis Snowden, who is also an Emerald Downs trainer. “She loved them. It was always more about the horses for her than it was about the money.
“She fell in love with every horse she was involved with. And with all the hype and attention (The Chilli Man) was getting not only in the Northwest, but from all over the country — this horse was being looked at like a phenomenon — (the animal’s death) really affected her.”
But what happened Sunday night at the Kummer Bridge was not just about grief from one tragic racing accident, said Shauna Morrissey of Woodinville, who called Monique Snowden her best friend. “There were,” she said, “maybe three days we didn’t speak in the last five years.”
Snowden had dealt with depression after her mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer years ago and later committed suicide. Though Snowden was usually very happy, there were also “moods that would come along,” Morrissey said.
In addition, Snowden had some difficult relationships at the track and had even confided that she might soon be leaving Emerald Downs, Morrissey said.
In the end, Morrissey added, “her suicide was the culmination of issues of which Chilli Man was just a part. … I believe she came to her decision long before Chilli Man died. He was a piece, but he was not the reason. I do not believe this was a decision she made between 3:30 (in the afternoon), which is when he died, and 11 that night (when she apparently jumped).”
As for the swirl of anguish in her friend’s life, “she just hid it,” Morrissey said. “She didn’t tell anybody. She didn’t want anybody to know.”
The terrible irony, she went on, is that Snowden “was one of the strongest women I’ve ever met in my entire life. She was a bigger and better human being than pretty much everybody else around her.”
Though Snowden lived in Enumclaw during the racing season, she loved returning to her Snohomish farm during the winter, Morrissey said. But her most abiding love was for her horses because “they were her family. They knew her, they recognized her, they whinnied to her. She fed them treats. And she knew absolutely everything about every horse in her care. To a lot of people in the race world horses are a commodity, but they were not a commodity to her.”
“She didn’t do this job for the monetary rewards,” agreed Dennis Snowden. “She just loved the horses and it showed in her work.
“This is,” he said, “a real tragedy. It’s devastating for me and I’ll never get over it. This woman was one of the smartest women I’ve ever been around. She was always looking for something that would make her horses better. … Words can’t describe how dedicated she was and what a great person she was.”