Catherine Thompson's Reviews > The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation

The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
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Mar 08, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, biography
Read from March 04 to 08, 2012

Dutch immigrant Harry de Leyer taught riding at the Knox school for girls in the 1950s. One day, with a budget of $80, he went to a horse auction to buy some schooling horses. He was late, and by the time he got to the auction grounds, everything was closed up. The only person there was the kill buyer, with his load of unwanted horses. One in the truck, a thin dirty grey horse, looked at Harry with big brown eyes that spoke of intelligence and something else. Against his better judgement, Harry bought the horse, which he named Snowman.

Snowman served well through the school year, but at the end, Harry sold him to a local doctor. Within days, Snowman had jumped out of his paddock and returned to Harry's farm, dragging a tire to which he'd been tethered and a bit of the fence. Right then, Harry knew he had something special. He returned the doctor's money and kept Snowman. There was more to this old plough horse than met the eye.

Though I've been a fan of show-jumping for years, I'd never heard of Snowman, or at least I thought I hadn't, though now that I've read this book, I think his story may have been included in C. W. Anderson's Twenty Gallant Horses, which I must have read a dozen times as a child. Elizabeth Letts does an excellent job of telling the story of Snowman and Harry de Leyer, a man who survived the hell of Nazi-occupied Holland and who then emigrated to America with his young wife to carve out a new life.

Snowman and Harry's story is one of triumph over the odds, and who doesn't like that sort of tale?
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