Back in the Saddle

albia hospice horse ride

For Ray Taylor of Ottumwa, it was horses that brought out the best in him as a kid, even in the toughest of times. On Tuesday, July 31, he was able to regain that sensation one more time with help from staff of Care Initiatives Hospice in partnership with Victory Ranch.

“Growing up, Ray had a pretty tumultuous childhood,” said Social Worker Jacque Heiter, a member of the Care Initiatives Hospice staff who has been working to make his final wish a reality.

“Ray’s father died when he was young, and the man his mother married was abusive,” Heiter said. Eventually, his mother found she couldn’t care for her kids, and they all went into foster homes. “Ray lived in many homes, but there was one particular family that helped him get on the right track.

“They had horses,” Heiter explained and through working with and caring for those horses and enjoying their companionship on rides, Ray found respect for them and himself. “It was a really big thing for him,” Heiter said.

“He recalls how much he enjoyed joining the Saddle Club,” Heiter said. He spoke fondly of riding down to Fort Madison, Iowa each summer with a big group of other riders. They would camp and catch the annual rodeo. “Those were his happy memories,” Heiter said.

As an adult, Ray incurred more difficulties. Heiter explains Ray served in Vietnam. He fell into difficult times and lost touch with his brothers, sisters, and his daughter. Now, in his early 70s, living at Oakwood Specialty Care in Albia, he is facing a terminal illness. The staff of Care Initiatives Hospice would like for him to experience that happiness he once had when interacting with horses.

“I asked Ray if I could arrange it, would he like to ride a horse again,” Heiter said. “He just beamed.”

Heiter then contacted Vicki Baum at Victory Ranch near Ottumwa a non-profit organization that seeks to empower local youth through interaction with their horses.

“Vicki was very willing to help give Ray this opportunity,” Heiter said.

With help from other volunteers, Ray got his opportunity to return to his happy memories.

In addition to his horse ride, Heiter and other Care Initiatives Hospice staff have been helping him to rekindle some of his family relationships. Ray’s brother, Bob, and sister-in-law, Laurie, have been in close contact. Ray is hoping to reconnect with his daughter.