This is the first part of a series I will be writing on the school horses at my college (and soon to be alma mater); Otterbein University.

What many people may not realize is that our school horses have been donated to the university. They are all here for a variety of reasons, with a wide range of histories. I’m here to quell any misconceptions about our donated schoolies; our horses are top-notch quality and many are still actively showing and competing outside of the collegiate ring. These horses do one of the hardest jobs you could ask a horse to do (be school horses), and I am honored to tell some of their stories.

The first horse I am showcasing is also one of the newest additions to the Otterbein barn: Gregor.

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Gregor with Aaron Vale

Gregor came to Otterbein this past spring from the VanderWalde family. The VanderWaldes purchased Gregor from Aaron Vale as an equitation horse for their oldest daughter, Emily, for her last junior year, about six years ago.

After that, Gregor became the new co-pilot for the middle VanderWalde daughter, Sarah, who rode him for about four years in the equitation, and took him to indoors every year.

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Sarah and Gregor at the 2012 USET finals

Most recently, Gregor became the trusty steed of the youngest VanderWalde daughter, Lizzie, as her back-up equitation horse. They competed in several derbies together as well. His show record is extensive, and he’s done a little bit of it all. He’s a well-versed gentleman, and they fondly refer to Gregor as “The Gentle Giant.”

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Sarah and Gregor

I asked the VanderWaldes why they chose Otterbein for Gregor’s new home. “When it came time to find a new home for Gregor, because of his age and the special shoeing requires, we knew that we wanted him to go somewhere where he would be loved and well taken care of,” says Sharon VanderWalde, mother of Emily, Sarah and Lizzie. “After Otterbein was recommded to us by Sarah Haas, whom we trust, we set off to do some research. We were so impressed with the facility, the care and the programs.  We felt this would be a good match for Gregor.”

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And they were right. Once Gregor arrived, every student who sat on him fell in love with this gentle giant, and he was accepted to the program.

Just a few weeks after we received Gregor, Otterbein hosted an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) Zone Finals, and we decided to use Gregor for some over fences and flat classes. Despite his size, Gregor dutifully carried each of the kids who rode him around, putting in many lovely rounds, and winning his riders a plethora of blue ribbons. He was even voted the ‘Horse of the Show’ by the zone!

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Gregor very quickly became a barn favorite, and is now being half-leased by one of my peers, Megan DeMott (pictured here with Gregor), who plans to show him this summer.

I asked her why she chose Gregor, and what her plans are with him. “I chose to lease Gregor because of his reputation in the A show circuit and his show record doing the big equitation classes. In addition to his incredible show record he has a wonderful personality and is beautiful to look at,” says DeMott. “The first time I rode him we seemed to just click and that is when I decided to a lease him! My plan for this summer include taking him to shows and competing in the adult hunters, adult equitation and in hunter derbies,” she added.

Currently, Gregor, along with nine other Otterbein horses, is at the Kentucky Horse Park, where he will be used for IEA Nationals. I can guarantee that whoever draws him will be incredibly lucky, as this guy is talented, athletic, sweet and definitely knows his job. He lives up to his nickname of The Gentle Giant, and we are so lucky that he has joined the Otterbein family! Thank you to the VanderWaldes for choosing Otterbein for the wonderful Gregor!

To learn more about Otterbein’s Equine Science Department and Equestrian Teams, visit: http://www.otterbein.edu/public/Academics/Departments/EquineScience/EquestrianTeam.aspx

Special huge thanks to Sharon VanderWalde for sharing photos and information about Gregor prior to his life at Otterbein, and to Megan DeMott for sharing her photo and plans with Gregor for the summer!