Two women who severely neglected 83 horses at their Terrebonne ranch were sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in jail, five years probation and 200 hours of community service.
Linda Stream, 68, and her daughter, Christina J. Hart, 42, were ordered to forfeit any interest in the horses and are banned from owning horses and other livestock for 15 years.
Each woman pleaded no contest to 10 counts of second-degree animal neglect last month before the sentencing hearing in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
In March, a hunter near the horse ranch reported the animal neglect to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. He had seen a horse with an eyeball hanging out of its socket.
Deputies responded to GreenGate Farms in Terrebonne and seized the horses, mostly Arabians, all of which had health issues, including open sores, infections and hooves so overgrown, they bent backwards. Several horses were kept in stalls with 3 feet of manure on the ground.
To date, 45 of the horses have been adopted. But 18 had to be euthanized, including prized purebred Arabian stallions valued between $20,000 and $30,000 in their prime. The stallions had competed in national horse shows.
GreenGate Farms was originally operated in San Luis Obispo, California, by Stream’s parents, Jay and Dorothy Stream. After her father died, Linda Stream, along with her daughter, relocated the farm to Terrebonne.
Jay and Dorothy Stream were well-known in the Arabian horse community, and Jay Stream was the president of the World Arabian Horse Organization. The couple bred prestigious Arabian horses from rare bloodlines, according to the prosecution’s testimony Tuesday and online records.
“We’re sorry this all happened,” Linda Stream said at the sentencing hearing. “We love horses. It’s heartbreaking for us, too.”
Judge Stephen Forte said at the hearing he was perplexed that two people who grew up around the horses would be unable or unwilling to find help for them.
“You knew better,” Forte said. “How in the world did you ever let this happen?”
Erick Ward, the defense lawyer for Linda Stream and Hart, said the Stream family initially planned to sell the horses to a slaughterhouse in Mexico after Jay Stream died. Ward said Linda Stream and her daughter stepped in and said they would be willing to keep the horses and set up the ranch in Terrebonne — but with the understanding that they would get financial support from the family trust. It would cost about $100,000 a month to properly care for the horses, Ward told the court.
The financial support stopped coming, and Linda Stream and her daughter were overwhelmed caring for the horses, Ward said.
Linda Stream told the court she spent her entire $3 million inheritance to help the horses. Ward said the women would work long days, neglecting their own health.
“But it wasn’t enough,” Ward said. “It was never enough.”
Ward added the women tried to sell the horses, but they had no value given their health and age.
“This was a tragedy that was several years in the making and one my clients fought hard to avoid,” Ward said.
Cindy Walsh, Linda Stream’s sister, told a different story in a letter she sent to the judge before sentencing. Walsh, who lives in the San Luis Obispo area, said she believes her sister had received plenty of money from the family’s trust and questioned what she did with the funds.
Walsh said more than 100 horses were shipped to Terrebonne in 2012, so she worries that about 20 horses died from neglect before officials were notified.
“They probably died a horrible death and got buried on the property,” Walsh said in a phone call to The Bulletin.
Laurie Thomsen, a former manager of GreenGate ranch in California from 1980 to 2012, raised many of the seized horses from birth. She also wrote the court a letter supporting stiff sentencing. She, along with many others in the Arabian horse community, were shocked to hear about the serious neglect.
Thomsen said Linda Stream and Hart grew up knowing how to properly care for the horses.
“They knew what the care included and had the access to people who could help them,” Thomsen said in a phone interview. “That is part of the irony of the whole thing.”
After 18 of the seized horses were euthanized, the remaining 65 stayed at the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office rescue ranch, a 23-acre property across from Knott Landfill, just outside the Bend city limits.
A horse rescue organization out of Acton, California, adopted 15 of the horses, and another 30 have been adopted by families from across the West.
The Deschutes County ranch still has 18 horses available for adoption. There is no adoption fee.
On Tuesday, a family drove about five hours from Milford, California, to adopt one of the seized horses, a 15-year-old purebred Arabian horse named Dragonfly.
Jeremiah Van Meter and his wife, Morgan, and sons, Jacob, 14, Tyler, 12, and Alex, 9, arrived at the rescue ranch with their horse trailer ready to bring Dragonfly home.
The Van Meters already own three purebred Arabian horses and were looking for a fourth. They hope to be able to ride Dragonfly and enter him in shows and community events with their other horses.
“The goal is to have fun with him,” Morgan Van Meter said. “Horses need a job, so we are going to give him a job again.”
The couple said they heard about the neglect case through others they know in the Arabian horse community. They followed the case from afar and didn’t hesitate when they heard some of the horses would be available for adoption.
“If we can help an animal like this in need,” Jeremiah Van Meter said. “It’s definitely worth the trip.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, firstname.lastname@example.org