After months of rumors, canceled rides and angry members asking where ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) had gone, the organization has finally broken its silence on the financial crisis it is facing.
In the magazine, ACTHA Monthly, a two-page spread titled “What’s Going On? The Real ACTHA Crisis” outlines the organization’s troubles, the first time the members have been addressed on the crisis even though staff members had been laid off weeks earlier, leaving the offices empty and phones ringing when members tried to contact the group.
In the article, ACTHA first offers some background. “The real truth is ACTHA has been struggling for a long time.” The article alludes to funding that didn’t come through, and investment in a new website that also didn’t materialize. It doesn’t go into any further detail on those two points. It also issues vague blame on “eccentric leadership” and “managerial frustrations” for the organization’s inability to “flourish.”
The article admits that the organization had “some financial loss” it was working to overcome and went into the winter with very low reserves. For the first time it was unable to pay its ride hosts.
Then on Dec. 6, 2015, the ACTHA donation page was hit by a series of credit card donations. “They donated $1, $2, $20, and so on, until thousands of donations had come in totaling over $60,000.” The organization says it started paying bills and felt “rescued” and “relieved.” But then fraudulent claims started to come in. The donations turned out to be fraudulent charges made to stolen cards, and the organization was facing $15 charge back fees on those $1 donations. ACTHA’s accounts started to fall into a “bottomless abyss of disappearing funds.”
As of Jan. 1, 2016, all staff was laid off. A few continued to work as volunteers. Two people manned the customer service phones and email. That remains the situation at this time. “Our volunteers managing Facebook cannot answer questions regarding refunds, ride closing, etc., so while it seems like they are ignoring those questions, they don’t have access to those answers.
As to its future, ACTHA says it will not give up fighting and lists some of the people that are working to revive the organization: “a volunteer professional with experience with non-profits” a “highly active new board member … with a professional background in the corporate world” an attorney, two CPAs and state offices. “We are fighting the good fight and will not give up easily!”
The organization says it is looking at several options including Chapter 11 bankruptcy, although “that is certainly not a first choice.” ACTHA insists that its first priority is paying its ride hosts.
ACTHA is restructuring its policies and procedures “to provide an environment of accountability.” The organization plans to create “executive teams in the areas of IT and finance, rather than having those areas controlled by one particular person.” Positions such as president, vice president, etc., will be eliminated and replaced by teams.
Rides on the schedule for February will all be canceled and refunds given while the changes to the organization are implemented. ACTHA has obtained ride insurance and it will be activated once necessary IT changes have been made, hopefully by the end of February. Rides are expected to be able to continue by March 1.