MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — His name is shared with a mythical Greek hero. He’s a mascot and he saves lives every year. Meet Hercules, a 2,000-pound horse blood donor.

“He has a big head for a reason,” student trainer Zach Loppnow said.

While he was busy saving other horses lives, a new program at the University of Minnesota was launched, matching students to horses. That’s helped give the gelding a new lease on life.

Not only is Hercules tall in stature, he’s become quite the celebrity.

“He’s been our mascot. He has his own Facebook page,” said Dr. Stephanie Valberg, director of the U’s Equine Center.

Luckily, his veins and good attitude are as big as his head.

“He’s more than 2,000 pounds, he can give eight liters of blood at a time all the way up to 10, then we have to wait 30 days and he can give us another donation,” Valberg said.

His job for the last several years has been to help other horses by being a blood donor.

“He’s always been a real character, he hasn’t always gotten a lot of attention,” Valberg said.

That changed when Loppnow, a veterinary student at the U, entered his life two years ago. When the Equine Center opened they wanted working horses like Hercules to be matched with someone to get some extra attention. Hercules and Loppnow were an instant match.

“His temperament was good to begin with. Now he’s become even more friendly,” Loppnow said. “There’s a mutual respect between us.”

While Hercules has a big heart, he didn’t always want to work.

“He was used to the point of this is it, this is what I’m doing, but now there’s an enjoyment,” Valberg said.

So much so, Hercules is reaching new goals.

“They wanted him to be a mascot that could go out instead of a mascot that stays inside the Equine Center,” Loppnow said.

In August, he did just that.

“He can paint with his hooves and he went to the polo classic last year, and we never would have been able to do that before Zach,” Valberg said.

Both are fundraising opportunities for the Equine Center, so more horses can have a big full life, like Hercules. Hercules has his own Facebook page, so feel free to check him out there.

The University of Minnesota Equine Center couldn’t have been possible without donations, so it’s a way for donors to connect.

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