My Friend Crystal
I was trying to remember when I first met Crystal and I decided that it must have been sometime in 1971 after college when I moved back home to my parent’s house in Ft. Salonga, Long Island, New York and was working for Herman’s Sporting Goods.
Years before I had started riding and showing a bit at Cherry Meadow Farm with Mrs. Dorothy Sachey. I stopped when we moved from Huntington to Ft. Salonga, then college and such –so I had not ridden in several years. Back home again and working, I decided to start again. I had been passionate about horses forever but never owned one and loved riding but had not done so in quite a while.
The closest riding academy was Stony Hill in Northport. Large and rambling I walked into the office and asked the owner Mrs. Anita Hutzler if I could take lessons. Of course she said and scheduled me. She then gave me the tour and walked me down to a ring where several students were taking their lesson with a slender but athletic young women, dressed properly in immaculate breeches, rat-catcher shirt, sun glasses and short, reddish fashionably cut hair whowas screaming at a student to “Give that horse his head over the jump. Stop pulling on him. Come here. GET OFF THAT HORSE!!”
That was my introduction to Crystal Bayer Rowley, the head instructor and drill team leader for Stony Hill and the beginning of a life-long friendship that lasted almost fifty years. She took me in, taught me everything horse and introduced me to her wonderful family, including her twin daughters Doreen and Darlene, husband Joe and sisters Pam and Bonnie and Bonnie’s daughter Gloria, who incidentally wound up living with me for several years in a house Crystal helped me pick out in Ridge near her farm in Yaphank.
Crystal had a directness and confidence building- nature that made you jump higher than you ever thought you could, buy horses when you never thought you would and show in classes you didn’t think you should. We picked out and bought and trained horses off the track (my show horse Doc), we worked together as instructors (me beginners, Crystal show kids), we trained a team for Thomas School of Horsemanship Junior Olympics and Crystal had clients that hired her to ride their horses at the famous Hampton Classic. She arranged an appointment and we took a ride and had a lesson with Ronnie Mutch in Westport Connecticut. She ran her own business out in Yaphank and got her trainers license and raced her own horses and one of mine, Music.
We got up early Sundays to use the training track at Belmont where she was befriended by famous trainer Allen Jerkins, then hauled Music to run at Delaware Park in 1987. Crystal was the best, gutsiest and most think out of the box horse person I ever knew. For about twenty years we had some of the hardest work, most heart stopping thrilling adventures, greatest injuries, best horses and happiest times.
Life happened and our personal lives moved on and were sometimes in upheaval. Crystal wound up moving away to Florida but there was always a connection: we were life- long friends but did not see each other and only stayed in touch with a call now and again and a Christmas card for many years.
In October 2015, Crystal called me and for the first time in my life I heard some fear in her voice. In the subsequent days and weeks and months, our connection snapped right back to how it had been in our horse hay days and I tried to talk to her daily or whenever she wanted. We talked about all the times we had and all the fun we had. It always ended in tears and I love you from both of us. Finally she told me she was too tired to talk.
I will never forget Crystal and know she met her great jumper Fire on the Bridge and galloped to Heaven.