A passion for animals is the foundation of Equine Outreach Inc. (EOI), a horse rescue that Joan Steelhammer of Bend, with the assistance of her husband, Gary Everett, has had her entire life. On a daily basis she takes that passion and turns it into reality. For over 30 years she has been involved in animal rescue and it has resulted in the formation of this organization dedicated to the rehabilitation, adoption and permanent placement of abused and neglected horses.
She was on the board of directors for the Humane Society when the shelter on 27th Street was built and realized there wasn’t a shelter or rescue for horses. She was inspired to create a facility that could offer safe care for abused and neglected horses, help in herd management and offer alternative solutions when destruction isn’t necessary. Her road has been long and frustrating, but she said she is patient.
EOI is a private non-profit charitable organization that is run with many loving volunteers who help assist in the rehabilitation of the horses. “The volunteers make a world of difference with these guys,” Steelhammer explains, saying they strive to bring health and trust back to the large animals. “Every little scratch or bump they get we look at and take care of.”
To bring trust back to the abused horses or calm the wild ones, you have to connect with them through calm ways, she explained. “You have to regain their trust. I don’t care if you sit down and read a book next to them. Spend time with them, talk to them. Pet them and love them, don’t push them. Make it a positive experience.”
Equine Outreach works closely with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office for the majority of their criminal rescues, several other sheriffs in Central and Eastern Oregon and local veterinarians. Being one of the largest horse rescues in the Northwest, EOI has many goals including education in animal husbandry and ownership, and working with surrounding counties to teach and educate in animal safety procedures and implementing protocols, striving to eradicating cruelty, abuse and even hording. She gets inquiries from neighboring states and thanks to social media like Facebook, now gets calls from all over the nation with anything from requests to advice.
EOI was featured in Cowboys & Indians magazine with Habitat with Horses and Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center, and in the fall of 2011 was verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). Less than about one percent of the animal sanctuaries in the world pass their scrutiny. “We are a humble rescue in comparison to a lot of those we are in league with,” she states.
Their adoption procedures are designed to ensure the rescued horses go to homes where they will receive appropriate and loving care. They work closely with the new owners to answer questions and provide as much information about equine well-being as possible.