I mean, why wouldn’t you teach a retired racehorse to paint?
Paintings by OTTBs are the newest hot item in the art world, after all. Everyone wants a Moneigh, with their maximum star power: original works of art by celebrity equines like Zenyatta or Curlin, and proceeds benefiting ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption. I’m personally a big fan of this current work by Ken McPeek trainee Rogue Romance:
Of course if you just want to settle for a painting by any old painting horse, you can type “Paintings By Horses” into Google, which, believe me, is not the most weird thing anyone has typed into Google in the past five minutes, and you will get plenty of results. Justin The Painting Horse has actually made the Huffington Post (who helpfully point out that Justin’s mouth is, indeed, “horse-sized”). And if you try to cut out the middleman and just type “paintinghorse.com” you will find that the owner of this domain has actually retired her horses from the life of an artist, but offers instruction on bringing the da Vinci out of your horse.
But this is Retired Racehorse Blog, and we are not interested in paintings by any old gelding with dreams of gallery grandeur. We require “proper harses, T’orobred harses,” as an Irish jockey once described them to me. Proper harses like… Metro!
Metro has been making the news rounds, but I haven’t been paying attention to the news, or I would have been all over this adorable bay gelding from very close to my home county in Western Maryland. Metro paints with purpose. Metro paints for a cause. Metro apparently really loves to paint.
Type “Metro the painting horse” into Google and you’ll get results from D.C. television affiliates, Business Insider, even gossip site Deadspin. (The Deadspin article includes a really fabulous lapse of grammar with the line: “Ron Krajewski of Gettysburg, Pa., who adopted Metro along with his wife, Wendy…”) But here is the basic story:
A solid allowance horse with a couple stakes placings, Metro had dropped down into the cheap claimers, had several knee surgeries under his belt, and was looking for a retirement home. Krajewski and his wife, who were members of the racing partnership who owned him, adopted him in hopes of having a fun first horse to learn to ride on.
Of course, Metro had been running long enough, and with enough problems, that he wasn’t exactly novice riding material. And the vet report was very grim: floating knee chips, arthritis, ulcers, the works. But Krajewski took on the project of not just getting the horse sound, but sound enough for trail riding.
And then Metro’s knees really took a turn for the worse. He wasn’t going to be heading out on the trails anymore. Krajewski looked for a new way to spend time with his buddy. He describes the process of teaching his horse to be a painter on his website, Painted by Metro.
The first thing was to teach him to target the canvas. Every time he would touch the canvas with his nose, I would reward him with a treat. Then came the brush. I would hand him the brush, and every time he would hold it in his mouth, I would take it from him and reward him with a treat. Now came the test. I didn’t have a back up plan if he didn’t paint once I put the two together. But luckily when faced with a canvas and brush in his mouth, he learned to stroke the canvas all on his own.
I honestly don’t know why we aren’t all doing this with our horses. This sounds like crazy fun.
Metro’s artwork goes for big bucks, but it serves a purpose. Krajewski was initially hoping that the paintings would fund the painting horse’s veterinary bills as his knees continue to worsen. But as he grew in popularity, Krajewski found that they could help other horses in need, too, and to date he has raised more than $3,000 for New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.
Perusing one of the numerous news stories about Metro, I read this particular line and was struck by an idea:
Rather than just standing in a pasture looking pretty for the remainder of his life, Ron taught him how to hold a paintbrush and Metro embarked on a new career as an equine artist.
It’s very difficult to keep a pasture pet, especially one with high costs associated with upkeep. But Krajewski found a way for Metro to not only keep his brain engaged with a job, something most of us agree is very important to the happiness of a Thoroughbred, but to help pay his way in his retirement. I wonder how many more unconventional roles chronically unsound OTTBs could play, not just the common ones our brains immediately turn to, like therapy or companion horses, but completely out-of-the-box ideas like… like painting.
Many thanks to Ron Krajewski for emailing me about his wonderful horse, Metro.