Crystal was a strong, elegant, and spirited Arabian mare, foaled in 1977 on the family ranch near Vernon, BC.
At birth, she was chestnut like her sire, NaMaram. Soon she shed her baby coat and became grey.
The grey lightened gradually as she matured and aged. For the last 15 years of her life she was pure white and still very beautiful.
By the time she as five years old, she demonstrated amazing speed and endurance and soon was a winner in many competitive trail rides and endurance races. No hill was too steep, no snow too deep, and no trail too long.
In spite of her fire when shown a trail to follow, she was the gentlest ride for children and so patient and kind to handle.
When Crystal was 10 years old, a major move took her to the Yukon.
Although the Arabian breed originated in the desert, Crystal endured and adapted to the cold like a trooper. She learned to drive in harness pulling a sleigh, went on hunting trips for sheep and grizzly, and carried me over most of the trails in and around Whitehorse.
She went to Haines Junction for a weekend ride in the mountains there, and spent a summer as a school horse in Dawson City.
She carried me throughout the streets of Whitehorse on parade for Canada Day in summer and for Rendezvous in winter.
One day while I was riding her along the roadside, a tourist couple stopped their camper and asked me it they could take our picture. “We have been looking for the ‘white horse’ at Whitehorse,”, they exclaimed. “Now we have found it!”
Over the years, Crystal triumphed over a near-deadly beating by another horse, a gunshot wound in her flank and some minor ailments. But she patiently endured the treatments and remained sound.
In 1998, Crystal and her foal, Cascade, travelled back down the Alaska Highway to BC’s Okanagan again where she was my regular mount and an outlet for stress and fatigue from a very intense business venture.
After two years there, she was moved again, this time to Calgary, Alberta where she was boarded on a ranch south of the city. I would see her only on weekends, then, but we still managed to explore a lot of the cattle country near the foothills. A cattle drive was a highlight for both of us.
Finally, the move back home to the Yukon took place in 2002. Crystal seemed happy to see trails that were familiar and would prick her ears and “shift gears” when we came upon a stretch of trail that she remembered – some from as much as 12 years earlier.
On an acreage at the outskirts of Whitehorse, Crystal was content in a snug stable in winter and grazing on green grass in summer. A companion in the form of a cheeky Welsh pony joined her and she taught him the trail manners.
Then, after a fall on ice, on a cold January day in 2006, just short of her 29th birthday, Crystal needed the final comfort that I could give her.
Many months and tears later, I was still missing her keenly. I had kept her saddle, bridle, blankets, trophies and pictures in the tack room of the barn. The next year, on Christmas Eve, another tragedy for us. Our family was away having dinner in Copper Ridge. That celebration ended abruptly with a phone call and the words, “Your barn is on fire!”
Racing home, we found the yard filled with tanker trucks, firefighters and rapidly freezing water. But it was too late; the barn, and all its contents, were destroyed. The pony was loose in a large paddock so he escaped unhurt.
In spring, when all of the ice melted and the debris from the fire was being cleared away, Crystal’s snaffle bit, from the bridle she wore for so many miles, came out of the ashes.
I can think of no more fitting tribute to a great Yukon horse than for this memento to be part of the Whitehorse Horse Sculpture.