(BBC) The horse that saved his own life by painting
He was once a well-known racehorse, but it looked as though ill health would soon mean the end for Metro. Then his artist owner, Ron, had an unusual idea.
It’s said that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. So when Ron Krajewski first introduced his horse, Metro, to an easel there was no guarantee he would paint.
After all, this horse had been struggling with health problems since he was adopted by Ron and his wife in 2009. Metro had once been a successful racehorse – as Metro Meteor, he won eight races and $300,000 (£234,000) prize money at the prestigious Belmont Park. However, he was retired by his stable after bone chips in his knees caused permanent damage.
Metro had months of rehab and medication. Special horse shoes helped for a time, but in 2012 X-rays revealed his knee joints were closing up. A vet said they would lock up within two years, at which point Ron and Wendy would have to put their horse down.
“I didn’t just want to put him out to pasture and forget about him. I was thinking about how we could spend time together,” Ron says.
He had noticed that his spirited horse liked to bob his head to get attention and pick things up in his mouth. A professional artist himself, Ron wondered if he could convince Metro to hold a paintbrush.
“I taught him to touch his nose to the canvas for horse treats, then to hold a paint brush,” Ron says.
“We were looking for a horse Wendy could ride and were probably quite naive,” Ron says. “We soon discovered Metro had worse race injuries than we had bargained for.”
“He could have just touched the paint brush to the canvas and then dropped it and that would have been the end of it. Luckily for us he started making up and down strokes and seemed to enjoy it.”
Metro was soon creating works that Ron judged were good enough to put on sale at a local gallery. The first four paintings sold out the week they were put on display.
Metro’s unbridled style has been compared to Jackson Pollock, a painter famous for his splatter and drip technique.
“Metro’s brush strokes are nothing a human can make, because he doesn’t think about what he will do before he does it. His strokes are thick, random and sometimes broken, which lets other colours show through. It all just vibrates on the canvas,” Ron says.
Metro’s unusual ability caught the attention of local TV news in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and his story was picked up nationwide. By 2014, there were 150 people on a waiting list for his works.
Sales of the paintings helped fund a new experimental treatment for Metro. His vet created a technique to apply a drug called Tildren directly to his knees.
“Within a few months X-rays showed the bone growth had receded. It has added years to his life,” Ron says.
Ron and Wendy keep Metro and their other horse, Pork Chop, at a stable four miles from their home. They visit them about five days a week and on two of those Ron and Metro have a painting session.
“Metro has got a little section in the barn that we call his studio. It’s all set up ready for him to paint,” Ron says.
“I did try to get Pork Chop to paint once, but he just wasn’t interested.”
Ron acts as both art director and assistant. He picks the colour and loads the paintbrush before handing it over. Metro then makes the strokes.
“I always stand on his left so he paints from left to right. If I hand him the brush in the upper right hand corner, that’s where he will go.”