The Marin County Sheriff’s Office is trying to locate two young mountain bikers who spooked two horses on a trail last week, causing injuries to two Oakland women who were thrown from their mounts.

The incident happened around 4 p.m. June 20 on a single-track trail intended for horseback riding and hiking in the Indian Tree Open Space Preserve in northwest Novato.

The boys came around a blind turn on the trail from behind the horses, which reared up, according to Monte Kruger, co-owner of Willow Tree Stables at 3777 Vineyard Road in Novato which leases horses.

One of the women, Lisa Zeppegno, 44, suffered three fractures to two lumbar vertebrae and her sternum when she was thrown from her horse, Kruger said.

The other woman, Nicole Devito, 47, suffered pain and minor injuries.

The Novato Fire Protection District responded to the incident, Capt. Dmitri Menzel said. Paramedics drove a 4-wheel drive pickup down a fire road then hiked down a ridge for about 20 minutes to reach the injured woman.

They requested the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office’s helicopter “Henry One” which secured Zeppegno in a stretcher and flew her to an ambulance at the Willow Tree Stables. Zeppegno was taken to Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center and has since been released from the hospital.

Zeppegno’s horse Coco, an 8-year-old female Belgian quarter horse, ran from the scene and was found the next day. The horse suffered deep cuts on the nose and under a foreleg, Kruger said.

“She’s doing okay. She’s out of the woods but will be out of service for a couple of months,” Kruger said this afternoon.

Kruger said the two Oakland women are frequent riders.

A sheriff’s office deputy assigned to the Marin County Parks Open Space District is trying to locate the two boys who were illegally riding bikes on the trail, Lt. Jamie Scardina said.

Kruger said the deputy told her today he was canvassing the neighborhood near the Indian Tree Preserve.
Speeding bicycles on the trails are a constant problem in the county, Kruger said.

In the wake of the incident, Marin County Parks has received and is considering public comment about promoting safe use of trails by equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers, parks director Linda Dahl said.

Bicyclists are prohibited from riding on Open Space District trails except on fire protection roads, designated pathways or public roads that don’t prohibit bicycles, Dahl said.

Dahl said despite a campaign against trail use and increased enforcement, “a select few risk takers continue to ignore county ordinances and put themselves and fellow trail users in danger.”

“We have some good leads and we continue to investigate,” Dahl said. “The goal is holding the bicyclists accountable. We work very closely with the sheriff’s office and we are receiving assistance from them on this matter.”

On July 23, the Marin County Parks and Open Space Commission will hold a joint session with the Marin County Board of Supervisors, which serves as the open space district’s board of directors.

They will discuss a Road and Trail Management Plan/Environmental Impact Report that presents new policies and a framework to improve safety, enjoyment, fairness and resource protection in Marin County’s preserves, Dahl said.

The county has held 10 public hearings over the past three years on the plan, Dahl said.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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