The Escape Artist

Time passed. Snowman was always quiet and calm. He was a good lesson horse for beginners, but he refused to jump. Harry wanted to teach him to jump. He used very small obstacles, but Snowman did not jump. He just stepped over the little obstacles. Or he walked into them and made the obstacles fall. Harry was a good teacher, but he could not teach Snowman to jump.

Harry was a businessman. Horses were his business. He could not keep a horse because he liked him. He needed a horse who could jump. His students wanted to jump. They wanted to jump over obstacles and win trophies. They wanted to ride a champion jumper.

And Harry needed a champion for himself. A rider and his horse are a team. Harry was an excellent rider. He needed an excellent horse. Harry wanted to win competitions. He wanted to find a champion, a horse who could be a champion.

Harry was sad. One day he said to Joanna, “I am going to sell Snowman. He can’t jump. He won’t jump. I need a horse who can jump. The girls at the school want to jump. Horses are expensive. I can’t keep a horse that doesn’t do his job. I’m not rich. Snowman is good for beginners, but after three months the girls at the school are not beginners. They are ready to jump, but Snowman won’t jump.”

“The children like Snowman,” said Joanna. “They will cry if you sell him.”

“My father had many horses,” said Harry. “All the horses worked. A rich man can have a horse that doesn’t work. I’m not a rich man. I can’t keep Snowman. I need a jumper. But I will find him a good home. I will find people who will be kind to him.”

A doctor came to see Harry. “Can you help me?” he asked. “I’m looking for a good, calm horse. My son wants to ride, but he doesn’t want to jump. He wants a quiet horse to ride in the country. And I want to ride sometimes.”

“I have a good horse for you,” said Harry. “Snowman is quiet and calm. He likes people and he never gets excited. I’ll sell him for a hundred and sixty dollars.”

The doctor and his son looked at the big grey horse. “Is it a boy or a girl?” asked the boy.

Harry laughed. “Snowman is a gelding. He is male, but he had an operation when he was very young. He was castrated. He will never be a stallion.”

The doctor and his son rode Snowman. They liked him. The doctor gave Harry one hundred and sixty dollars. The Dutchman was happy. He had paid eighty dollars for the horse and now he had doubled his money. He had twice as much money.

The doctor and his son took Snowman to their home. They lived five miles away from Joanna and Harry’s farm.

Harry put another horse in Snowman’s box. He missed hearing Snowman greet him in the morning. But he liked the kind doctor and his son. He knew they would be good to their new horse.

A few mornings later, Harry got up in the morning, drank his coffee and went to the barn. There he had a surprise. Snowman was standing in front of the barn, with a halter on his head and a rope on the ground. The horse greeted him with a friendly nicker.

“What are you doing here?” Harry asked. He put Snowman in an empty box and called the doctor. “I have your horse,” he said. “Don’t worry. He isn’t lost. Maybe your fence needs repairing. I’ll bring him back to you.”

Later Harry put Snowman in the trailer and drove to the doctor’s farm. They put the horse in the field and checked the fence.

“My fence is in good condition,” said the doctor. “It doesn’t need repairing. The horse jumped over it.”

Harry laughed. “Snowman can’t jump. He can’t jump over an obstacle that is one foot high. He can’t jump over a fence that is four feet high. It’s impossible.”

The doctor shook his head. “It’s a mystery,” he said.

“Maybe the gate wasn’t closed.”

“The gate was closed,” said the doctor. “I closed the gate. I closed it myself.”

“Maybe he opened the gate,” said Harry. “He’s a smart horse. Maybe he knows how to open the gate.”

The doctor shook his head. “Maybe. I’ll put a lock on the gate. I’ll lock the gate.”

So the doctor put a lock on the gate. At night he put Snowman in the field and he locked the gate.

The next morning Harry woke up very early. He drank his coffee and he went to the barn. He heard a horse nicker. It was Snowman. The big grey gelding was standing in the yard. He was happy to see Harry.

Harry was surprised. He was puzzled. How did Snowman get out of the field? The gate was locked. The fence was four feet high.

“Did you jump?” asked Harry. “I know you can’t jump. It’s a mystery.”

Again, he took Snowman back to the doctor, who was not happy.

“Put him in a small field at night,” said Harry. A horse needs a big field to run and jump over a big fence. In a small field he can’t run, so he can’t jump high.”

That night the doctor put the big grey gelding in a very small field. He put a lock on the gate.

The next morning Snowman was back at Harry’s barn. The doctor was unhappy.

“Ok,” said Harry. “It really is a mystery. I don’t understand how he gets out. Attach a big tire to his leg. He can’t jump if he has a heavy tire tied to his leg.”

That night the doctor tied a big, heavy tire to Snowman’s leg. He put Snowman in a very small field. He locked the gate. He locked the gate himself.

Early next morning Snowman was standing in front of Harry’s barn. He had a tire tied to his leg. The doctor was unhappy. He was angry. “This horse is an escape artist!” he shouted. “He damaged my neighbor’s potato field. My neighbor is angry with me. You didn’t tell me the horse was an escape artist.”

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t know he could jump,” he said. “I didn’t know he could jump four-foot fences. I don’t understand. How can he jump with a tire tied to his leg? I will give you your money back.”

“It’s a deal,” said the doctor. “I don’t need an escape artist.”

“I didn’t know he was an escape artist,” said Harry. “I guess he knows what he wants. He wants to stay here.”

So, Harry gave the doctor one hundred and sixty dollars back and he put Snowman back in the barn. Snowman was back home. The children were happy to see him again and the big grey gelding was happy to be back at the farm Harry and Joanna called Hollandia.

Kind = gentil, bienveillant

Gelding = hongre

Five miles = huit kilomètres

Halter = licol

Fence = barrière

Nicker = a gentle, friendly “hennissment”

Puzzled = perplexe

Tire = pneu

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