BEND, OR -- Bend’s Equine Outreach has agreed to shut down after a lengthy investigation by Oregon’s Department of Justice. The DOJ investigation began when the entire board stepped down, last year. Investigators closed the case after the current board agreed to sever ties with the nonprofit’s co-founders who own the ranch where Equine Outreach keeps nearly 70 rescued horses. In a letter to attorneys dated October 25, 2017, the DOJ says it closed the investigation despite lingering concerns about how finances were managed by co-founders Joan Steelhammer and Gary Everett.
Bill Inman is the board President of Equine Outreach, but he says the nonprofit’s current leadership has only been together a short time. "The prior board resigned en masse in October 2016 and we came together out of concern for the horses. Our hope was that we were going to be able to get through it, and the DOJ investigation would be quick and we could move on. Unfortunately, it dragged out and that made fundraising more and more difficult." Inman tells KBND News, "We finally got to the point where, with winter coming, we knew that we should make the hard decision to start toward shutdown, because we didn’t want to be having this conversation in the middle of winter. It’s already closer to winter than we would’ve liked."
He acknowledges it will be difficult to find new homes for all 67 of the remaining horses at the ranch, "Most of the horses are older or have either illness or lameness issues that make them essentially what we refer to as 'pasture pets.' So, they’re not ridable. Some of them have training; some of them might be able to be ridden by a lightweight rider like a child, but not any serious riding."
Inman says the only way the nonprofit could continue operating is if a new location can be found, "A new location or the same location under new ownership. We would love Equine Outreach to continue to be a resource for the community; that would require an angel or angels to step up and are willing to purchase the property or have a property, or purchase a different property."
In the short-term, Inman says Equine Outreach will continue to care for the horses until they are adopted. But, he's hoping the community will help provide donations to help, "The horses that we have are going to continue eating and as that number diminishes, the ones remaining are going to continue to need feed and farrier care, and potentially vet care." Click HERE
to contact the ranch.