11 – Not For Sale

When Harry led Snowman forward to collect his trophy, he was accompanied by Joanna and the children dressed in their best clothes. The judges had three trophies for him, the Madison Square Gardens’ Diamond Jubilee cup, the Professional Horsemen’s Association trophy and the Horse of the Year trophy. The wonderful Cinderella horse was the Triple Crown champion. The photographers took lots of pictures of the children and their lovable « Teddy Bear », pictures that were in all the newspapers the next day. The Professional Horsemen’s Association gave their champion a white blanket embroidered with the PHA logo and the words « 1958 Champion ». It was the trophy which meant the most to Harry. Professional horsemen were riders like him, people who often did not have a lot of money but who had given their lives to their love of horses. With the prize money Harry planned to buy more pasture land and enlarge Hollandia Farm.

Just a few hours after Snowman’s victory, Harry was cleaning out the stable when a man named Bert came in and introduced himself. He was a horse lover who had made a fortune selling real estate in New York. He wanted to buy Snowman. He offered Harry 35,000 dollars, saying he had a van and could take him home tonight. At that time, Harry considered that a good year could bring him 3,500 dollars. Bert was offering him ten times as much. It was enough to buy not only a larger farm, but also a dozen promising young horses, future champions. But Harry shook his head. He had sold Snowman once and had had to buy him back. He could imagine the big grey escaping and coming all the way back to Long Island. He had promised his faithful mount that he would never make the same mistake again. He remembered going home last year with an empty van after Sinjon’s owner sold him.

Bert thought that Harry wanted more money. He offered more, but Harry could not be persuaded. So the real estate agent signed a blank check. « I want that horse, » he said. « You write in your price. Whatever it is, I will pay it. »

Harry shook his head. « I can’t sell Snowman, » he said. « My children love him. And he’s a horse who knows what he wants. He could jump every fence between your place and Hollandia farm.»

Bert looked at him for a while, then smiled. « Well, » he said, « if you ever change your mind, let me know. I’ll pay your price, whatever it is. » The two men shook hands and Bert left. Harry finished cleaning out the box.

Harry and Joanna were raised in the Netherlands, where people know how to count. Scots may have a reputation of being careful about money, but in Holland they say that the Scots are just Dutch people who swam across the North Sea because they didn’t want to pay the ferry. Harry and Joanna were careful with their money and they knew how to stretch a penny. Harry’s father had always said, « Every horse in a barn has to justify the cost of its feed. Horses aren’t pets. » Remembering his father, Harry had sold Snowman to his dentist neighbor. But Snowman was a wise horse. He knew what he wanted and had listened to his heart, jumping every fence between the dentist’s home and Harry’s farm. The big grey had proven that there were no fences tall enough to keep him away from the de Leyer family. Harry had promised that he would never sell him again. And he kept his promise.

Suddenly the teachers at Knox School for Girls discovered that they had a celebrity living in their stables. Families were calling every day, begging to enroll their daughters. All the new students wanted to take riding lessons with Harry de Leyer. When they visited the school, they wanted to know if they could have their picture taken with the Triple Crown champion. The headmistress smiled at Harry more often and sometimes she came to visit the stables and brought a carrot for the horse that had attracted so many new students to her school.

Harry used Snowman less for lessons and spent more time training him. The whole family still went to the beach with their favorite horse. The big grey loved swimming and would happily carry as many as could get on his back into the waves. But many things had changed. There was less worry about money and there were people from Hollywood who wanted to make a film about « the Cinderella horse. » Reporters came to interview Harry and take pictures for articles. The photographers claimed that Snowman knew when to pose and always made sure they got his best side.

Then it was spring again, time for the champion to prove that he was still a champion. Once again Harry and his family were taking Snowman to shows and once again the big grey was winning blue ribbons.

His biggest rival during his second year on the circuit was a younger horse named Windsor Castle. Snowman had beat him at the Washington show, but not easily. Because the sport of jumping was becoming more and more popular, prices for good jumpers were going up and up, rivaling prices paid for champion race horses. A group of Chicago investors bought Windsor Castle for $25,000. When the big grey beat Windsor Castle at the Fairfield show, it was easy to estimate which horse was the most valuable.

Then it was summer and Harry was invited to take Snowman on an exhibition tour in Europe. Harry and Joanna were delighted. It was an undreamed of opportunity to visit their family and friends in the Netherlands. They had left nine years ago with 160 dollars. They were returning with five children and a horse that was an international star, featured in Life magazine. It was a bittersweet experience for Harry because his mother was suffering from cancer. He knew it would the last time he would ever see her. Still, he knew that without Snowman he would not have been able to afford the trip. He certainly could not have brought the entire family on his riding instructor’s salary. He and Joanna were proud to show their children their homeland and their Dutch relatives. Harry was able to say good-bye to his mother.

That summer Snowman competed in many shows, often winning the top prize. This time everyone considered him a top contender for the Horse of the Year prize. Then it was once again time for the school to open and Harry and Snowman were back at Knox School for Girls. Harry’s classes were full and the girls listened to him with new respect. No longer did his best riders look down on the quiet grey horse with the scars on his chest, thinking he was only for beginners. Now they were honored if Harry let them ride the Triple Crown champion.

In October, when it was time for the International Show in Washington, D.C., Harry had no trouble getting permission to take Snowman himself. He even brought along Chief and Harriet. They had planned a special exhibition. The children lined up Snowman’s stablemate behind an obstacle, and Harry and « Teddy Bear » jumped high over both the obstacle and the other horse. It looked impressive but Harry had complete confidence in his horse.

In November, Harry and Snowman were back in Madison Square Gardens. Windsor Castle was there too and on November 6th he won the first class of the National Horse Show, beating Snowman. The same night his owners, the Chicago investors, sold him for $50,000, doubling their original investment. « It’s business, » one of them said. They were not attached to the beautiful, nervous, talented animal they had owned. They were bankers and investors, businessmen.

But the show was not over, and there were still many classes to win. Partly because of Snowman, jumping had become a popular sport, attracting crowds who were not riders but enjoyed the excitement of watching horses fly over obstacles. Sponsors had noted the new popularity and were putting more money into the prizes. The prize of the Championship Stakes, the last class of the show, was set at $5,000. It was the biggest prize Harry had ever competed for and he wanted to win.

But Harry knew better than to be thinking about prize money during a competition. His thoughts were completely focused on Snowman and the jumps. When their turn came for the last round of the last class on the last day, his miracle horse flew over the obstacles, in perfect time with his rider, cutting corners precisely, taking off with power, landing effortlessly, already aiming at the next jump.

They scored a perfect round, cheered by thousands who had come to see the Cinderella horse. Once again Snowman had won « the Triple Crown ». He had won the Madison Square Gardens championship, the Professional Horsemen’s Association championship and the Horse of the Year award. He was the first horse in history to win the Triple Crown two years in a row. His biggest rival, Windsor Castle, might be worth $50,000, but Snowman, rescued from the dog food factory for $80, was not for sale.

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