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Tragedy on the trail

Horse’s death at Folsom Lake blamed on illegal motorized dirt bike riders
By: Roger Phelps
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Tension between horse people and motor bikers tightened Jan. 3 with a death-dealing injury after spooking of horses on a Folsom Lake trail. Two horses shied when motorbikers rode within yards of them and their riders near Sterling Point, said Kerrie Cassidy, an equestrian who arrived soon after the spooking happened. The startled horses threw their mounts and ran wildly. One snapped a foreleg in a crevice between two rocks, according to Linda Ziegler, another equestrian to arrive on the scene. The other horse, uninjured, was lost for a time. Ziegler said horse people will step up pressure on the state for action. “We’re logging incidents,” she said. Motorbikes are illegal when they enter the incident area on the Pioneer Express Trail segment several miles upstream from Folsom Dam on the American River, said Richard Preston, supervising ranger of Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. “It happened between mile markers 42 and 43, below Lomida Lane (in Loomis),” Preston said. “Motor vehicles are strictly prohibited there, but we are experiencing an increase with the low lake level.” Despite the broken leg, the injured horse was not down when Cassidy arrived. “The horse was standing, but sweating and shaking – it was very distressed,” she said. A park ranger and a veterinarian hiked in several miles to secure the reported crime scene and to euthanize the suffering animal. The horse’s owner, Jeri Sust of Newcastle, had to arrange for the carcass of her mount to be dragged a distance to a roadway, and removed. “God knows I loved that horse. He was a sweetie and tried hard to please. He loved people,” Sust told the Loomis News. Granite Bay Veterinarian Jack Abrahams said there was nothing he could do to treat the horse’s injuries. “There wasn’t a lot I could do for him,” Abrahams said, explaining that based on a visual exam, the horse had suffered a “deep laceration,” ruptured ligaments and had been hemorrhaging. Cassidy placed the incident area around a mile west of Sterling Point. Ziegler said a network of single-track trails apparently allowed the bikes to buzz by the equestrians on a trail just a few yards uphill from the one the horses were on. Preston said authorities have leads in pursuing the suspected violators. Both Cassidy and Preston mentioned a known problem trail access in the Sterling Point residential neighborhood, at Lomida Lane. “My officers are investigating,” Preston said. “They have some information on some riders in the area.” Cassidy said she suspected the motorbikers lived in the Sterling Point neighborhood. The reported offense is a misdemeanor -- unauthorized motor-vehicle use in a state park, Preston said. “The fine is typically a couple of hundred dollars,” he said. Preston said he was expecting to meet with the park district superintendent. “We’ll come up with an action plan, to find accesses and close them off,” he said. Officer Kevin Pearce said Monday he was not aware of any action yet against suspects. Preston and the investigating officers were not on duty Monday. Ziegler said, “We know the park rangers are hard-pressed. Our next steps are to make the (riding) public aware that they’re facing this problem, so be vigilant, and perhaps bring more awareness to parents in the area -- that kids are going (motorbiking illegally) without their knowledge, or with their knowledge and they think it’s OK. If someone hits you with a vehicle, they could be sued, and this is no different.” Joyia Emard, of the Loomis News, contributed to this report. The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at rogerp@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment at folsomtelegraph.com.