Downed rider’s home receives upgrade

Cool woman adjusting to wheelchair
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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Friends and family of an injured horseback rider from Cool have come together to bring her ranch up to snuff before she comes home this weekend.

Crystal Costa's ranch has been alive with activity the last few days as neighbors, friends and family work to make her home handicap accessible.

Costa, 50, of Cool, was thrown from her horse while she was training in July for the Tevis Cup near the Francisco's checkpoint. Her horse was startled when a passing mountain biker's wheel slid out in loose gravel.

The fall broke two vertebrae in Costa's back, her eye socket and her nose. The mountain bike rider, Jon Hyatt, of Granite Bay, was in fifth place in the Tahoe-Sierra 100 at the time, but he stayed with Costa until help arrived and has visited her in the hospital since then.

Costa has been in recovery at a San Francisco rehabilitation center since her fall, but has not regained her ability to walk, according to her friend and neighbor, Dan Schafer. He said she will be home from the center by Saturday.

"Her attitude is as aggressive as ever to get back on a horse," Schafer said.

Schafer said that despite having a positive attitude and working hard at the rehabilitation center, his friend he trained with for the Tevis Cup for so long will be bound to a wheelchair.

That's why Schafer established the Crystal Costa Recovery Foundation.

"She wants to continue the life she's had here living with her horses and her dogs on the ranch," Schafer said. "We want to convert her ranch into a facility where she can live with as much freedom as she had in the past."

Around $4,600 has been raised so far to install a new concrete patio next to Costa's house and a new back deck connected to concrete ramps.

Costa's mother, Gail, said she has no idea how she could ever thank all of the people who have donated and volunteered their time to remodeling the house.

"At this point she just wants to be home with her animals and her son," Gail Costa said. "She's in the same situation as before, she doesn't walk, but she moves toes and we're just hoping for something."

The original back deck was partially rotted, so Schafer said materials are still needed to replace it. Crews with Sacramento's Nature Care Landscape Industries owned by Dean Moon were leveling out the area as a donation on Monday.

Tim Thomas, Costa's neighbor, was in the pasture behind her house clearing bushes so her eight horses can have more room. Some of Costa's horses have been picked up by friends who are taking care of them while she is in the hospital and Greg Kimler, owner of Echo Valley Ranch in Auburn, donated a truckload of hay for the horses that remain and said he will continue to help Costa in any way he can.

Thomas also leveled out and resurfaced the round horse pen behind the house so when Costa is ready she can learn to ride a horse again.

For Thomas, this is all a way to give back to a friend who has previously helped him in a time of need. Thomas was kicked by a horse he was training in 1997 and said Costa and other Cool residents led fundraising efforts to help repair his shattered knees.

"It's the tragedy of having this happen to a friend, it's the understanding that this can happen to any of us in the equestrian community, and it's the question of how to proceed from here," Thomas said. "It's a lot to think over."

While Thomas and Schafer cleared the blackberry bushes in the pasture Tuesday, a jackhammer rammed away where the new deck will eventually go.

Costa's son, Wyatt, 15, zipped around the ranch asking workers if they need water. Naturally, he's looking forward to having his mom come home.

"I know she's going to get here and do what she wants to do. I'm sure she'll still be out here wheeling around doing chores--she loves chores--so I'm not too concerned about that," Wyatt said.

Ron Cirimele, of Belreve Construction in Lafayette, and Tom Wolfe, of Tracy, have been at Costa's house for two weeks making her bathroom handicap accessible.

Neither man is charging for their services or materials. Wolfe estimates it would usually cost around $25,000 to remodel a bathroom for handicap accessibility.

But more needs to be done to reach the ultimate goal of allowing Costa to access her entire ranch.

Schafer would like to see an irrigation system set up and more materials are needed for the deck and rebuilding the riding arena on the property. Schafer estimates the total cost of making the entire property wheelchair accessible will be around $10,000.

Donations can be made in check form to the Crystal Costa Recovery Foundation to Community 1st Bank, 649 Lincoln Way, Auburn, Ca., 95603. Donations can also be made by searching for "Crystal Costa" at or through Paypal by entering when prompted for an email address.

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.