Horse Whisperer Charles “Chuck” Ridenbaugh Bonds With Horse Named “Charlie”
As one of seven children growing up on a farm in Coshocton, Ohio, Charles “Chuck” Ridenbaugh loved horses. Horses were used on his family’s farm, and that’s where his love of horses began. At a very young age, Ridenbaugh began breeding horses and breaking wild horses.
It bothered Ridenbaugh when people used force to break a horse. He was a cowboy in his heart. He spent time allowing the horse to get to know him. He learned what the horse’s fears were and how to help work through those fears. For him, patience was the most important component of training.
As an adult, he worked for 35 years at Republic Steel in Massillon, Ohio. While he did not become a professional cowboy, he has many tales of his adventures with horses. He traveled throughout the United States, attended horse shows, and rode horseback on numerous trails. He even rode on horseback from Colorado to West Virginia. He continued to train and ride horses into his late 80s, but he stopped because of his declining vision. He is retired and now lives in Orrville, Ohio.
Thanks to the care team at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, Ridenbaugh, a patient of the not-for-profit hospice, was able to fulfill his dream of riding a horse again. When Marsha Potts, medical social worker at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, and Paula Barnes, RN care manager at Ohio’s Hospice Lifecare, learned about Ridenbaugh’s love of riding, they worked with the care team and volunteers to help him fulfill his goal of riding a horse again.
“When I asked Chuck if there was anything in the world that he would want to do, his first answer was to ride again,” Barnes said. “Every week when I visit him, he is always telling me about an adventure on his horses.”
Potts also enjoys talking with Ridenbaugh about his experiences training horses. “Chuck has an amazing gentle spirit about him,” she said. “I always call him the horse whisperer.”
Sharon Pooler, a volunteer and a board member at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, has a friend, Claudia Kuntz, who has a farm with a horse arena. She has arranged for a couple of other patients in the past to visit her friend’s farm. When Pooler contacted Kuntz, she was more than happy to help fulfill the request.
Kuntz appreciated that Ridenbaugh’s life was filled with relationships with horses. “I wanted to share our horses so he could have that horse experience again,” she said.
Pooler arranged for Ridenbaugh to visit her friend’s farm and see the horses. “Chuck started his visit by brushing and grooming the horse who is named Charlie,” Pooler said. “Then, we helped him up on the horse. He was so elated! For him, it was like riding a bike.”
As soon as Kuntz introduced Ridenbaugh to Charlie the horse, she could see that he had a deep love and admiration for horses. “I felt very touched by his obvious lifelong relationship with horses as I also share that same love of horses,” she said. “It was so touching as he touched his head to Charlie’s head and stroked his neck.”
Breanna Fadenholz, mobile care specialist at Ohio’s Hospice Lifecare, drove Ridenbaugh to the arena in the not-for-profit organization’s wheelchair van. “He thought he would never be able to get on the back of a horse again,” she said. “It was an amazing experience. The horse was so gentle with him. It was like the horse knew he had precious cargo!”
After Ridenbaugh’s ride, Fadenholz, started to drive him back to his home. He told her that he had not felt like this in a long time. “He told me he normally would be really tired by this point. But today he felt great, and he never thought he would feel like that again,” Fadenholz said. “He was so sweet and so grateful to everyone who made this possible.”
She asked if there was anything else he wanted to do and whether he was hungry. His face lit up and he suggested Dravenstott’s Restaurant, his favorite restaurant in Orrville. He used to go to the restaurant regularly with a friend, but that friend’s car had broken down, and he had not been able to go for a while.
“When he walked in, everyone was excited to see him,” she said. “He talked about his life and training horses. He expressed how happy he was that he was able to ride the horse.”
Ridenbaugh can’t stop talking about the experience. Barnes, who is Ridenbaugh’s nurse, described how he had tears in his eyes just talking about it. “He gave me a huge hug and cried, thanking us for the experience,” she said.
Moments like these are just a few of the ways that the team at Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare works to provide individualized end-of-life care that makes a difference in the lives of patients and their families. The care team helps people live more fully at the end of life through the compassionate care they provide for those facing a life-limiting illness. Hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to a patient’s needs.
Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare, a not-for-profit organization established in 1982, is an affiliate of Ohio’s Hospice that serves communities in northeast Ohio. It embodies the spirit of neighbors caring for neighbors with a commitment to relieve suffering, ease fears, and provide companionship along life’s last journey. Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare addresses patient and family needs wherever the patient calls home. Services also include access to the Stanley C. and Flo K. Gault Inpatient Pavilion, providing short-term patient care to manage acute symptoms, adjust medications, or stabilize patient condition. The Marilyn B. and Mark E. Gustafson Center for Supportive Care includes Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare’s Volunteer Services, the Pathways of HopeSM Grief Counseling Center, and transportation service and support.