By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

How to help

Equine Outreach is actively seeking volunteers, cash donations, and donations of supplies and equipment for both the move and the ongoing care of the animals.

541-419-4842, P.O. Box 6054, Bend, OR 97708

The horses living at the Equine Outreach horse rescue facility northeast of Bend have a new home and could begin moving there as early as this weekend.

The nonprofit has been in flux for more than a year, since the entire board resigned over disputes with the founders, Joan Steelhammer and her husband, Gary Everett. Steelhammer and Everett own the property where the horses have lived since Equine Outreach began in 2002.

Equine Outreach began to board some of the nearly 130 neglected horses seized from a ranch near Millican in 2002, and has continued to provide a home for horses surrendered by their owners or seized by law enforcement.

The new board leading the organization recently secured a deal to move to a roughly 30-acre portion of a larger property southeast of Bend near Horse Butte.

Board president Bill Inman said volunteers and board members have been busy in recent days preparing the property for the horses. Brush has been mowed back and lower limbs of the junipers dotting the property have been trimmed. Around half a mile of barbed wire fencing has come down and has been replaced with a non-barbed variety.

Inman said it’s still unclear if the new location will be able to serve as a long-term home for the horses. He said they’ve been offered free use of the property through March, but with the future uncertain, the organization does not plan to take in any new horses. The group intends to move 35 horses to the new property, with Steelhammer continuing to care for 10 horses currently in the care of Equine Outreach.

The current board and the organization’s founders continue to be at odds over how to divide the nonprofit’s assets, and were scheduled to discuss the matter Tuesday afternoon.

Fencing, vehicles, watering and feeding troughs and 40 tons of hay are among the items the board hopes to move to the new property. Inman said it could be difficult to figure out how to account for improvements to Steelhammer and Everett’s property that cannot be moved, including a barn and a pond built with donor dollars.

An Oregon Department of Justice investigation into the nonprofit noted sloppy accounting practices on the part of Steelhammer and Everett, but stopped short of suggesting they had unlawfully used the nonprofit to benefit themselves financially. The probe was closed when the current board indicated it was likely to shut down the organization.

Everett and Steelhammer concede they routinely purchased items for the horse rescue operation with their personal funds and reimbursed themselves with funds donated to the nonprofit.

Steelhammer said despite the disagreements with the current board, she’s hopeful it can continue providing a needed service for the region.

“I’m thrilled it’s going to carry on, and I’m thrilled the horses’ lives are secured,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,