By Elizabeth Letts
Published by Ballantine Books
Copyright © 2011
Harry De Leyer was a young Dutch immigrant. He had lived through WWII and the German occupation of his home in Holland. After the war he decided to marry and seek his fortune in America. After years of hard work he was slowly inching towards his dreams as a horse owner and trainer. With a growing family however he could not afford the fine mounts that would make wonderful show horses, but he would continue to scrape the bottom of the barrels at horse auctions looking for horses that were within his price range.
One winter day Harry was attempting to make his way from New York to Pennsylvania to attend a horse auction, but unforeseen occurrences caught up with him and he showed up too late for the auction. The only horses left had just been loaded on to the slaughter house truck. Harry asked the driver if he could look at the horses. He didn’t see anything extremely impressive, but one horse in particular stuck out to Harry for his calmness in the face of adversity and for a spark in the old gray horse’s eyes. So, Harry took him from the slaughter house to his home back in New York.
The Eighty-Dollar Champion tells the story of Harry De Leyer and his improbable star jumping horse named Snowman, who he saved from that truck. Elizabeth Letts recounts for us how this horse became a jumper, and to what heights of fame and glory he attained. It was inconceivable that a poor hard working immigrant and a horse of indeterminate lineage could break the barriers of the moneyed Aristocrats and their high priced thoroughbred mounts in show horse competitions, and yet this is just what Harry and Snowman did to become the people’s champion.
Elizabeth Letts has penned an inspirational true story of perseverance, faith, and loyalty. And while it is disappointing and sad to see how time and change catch up with all of us, it is equally uplifting to see what heights man and animal can be lifted.