One of the fastest turf horses at Belmont and Saratoga a few years ago has made a surprising career choice upon retirement.
Metro Meteor, a 10-year-old bay horse with bad knees, has become a professional abstract painter.
The horse, whose racing career ended in 2009, has picked up a paint brush at a farm in Rocky Ridge, Maryland.
Of course, he gets some help from his owner, who is also a painter.
However, Metro Meteor’s new career is racing ahead so fast that some people are ponying up thousands of dollars for a Metro original and a gallery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is showcasing his work.
On Thursday, an anonymous buyer from Kingston, Ont., paid $2,100 on ebay for an 11×14 painting on watercolour paper entitled “Passion Fruit.”
In four months, this horse has now earned $20,000 with his brushstrokes, clutching the brush in his teeth and putting paint to canvas.
Ron Krajewski and his wife, Wendy, adopted the horse with no idea that he had a potential Jackson Pollock on his hands.
But Krajewski soon noticed the horse’s head was always bobbing up and down, and wondered what would happen if he put a paint brush in his mouth and an easel in front of him.
That’s when the artist was born.
Krajewski is the medium. He picks the colours for the horse, puts the brush in his mouth, and lets him go. Krajewski rotates the canvas, but his role is otherwise limited.
“His contribution is huge,” Krajewski told Torstar News Service from his home in Gettysburg, Pa. “He produces strokes that I could not do.”
Thick brush strokes are applied in layers.
“We’ll do a blue one today and paint orange over it the next day and come back and put a lighter blue over that orange after it dries,” Krajewski said.
After the horse applies these big, thick brush strokes, the horse will add another thick stroke on top of it, “leaving these nice, broken textures,” Krajewski said.
“These strokes are about texture. They’re visually pleasing. I have the vision of the colours and he applies all the strokes.”
The horse’s paintings are featured in a Pennsylvania art gallery, and in fact Metro Meteor is the gallery’s favourite artist, according to the gallery’s artistic director Peggy Rock.
There is a waiting list for Metro Meteor’s paintings.
Although there are skeptics, Krajewski defends his horse’s work as art.
He said it’s the same as if a human were painting with no preconceived idea of what the finished product should look like.
If they’re painting for “the joy of painting, then it is art,” he said.
There’s no rope on Metro Meteor. He will walk over to the canvas, and he’s got the freedom to walk away whenever he wants and he doesn’t, Krajewski said.
“He’s got no thought process to it. It is what it is. This is a painting by a horse that you can put on your wall and tell all your friends that a horse painted it.”
If anyone has a reason to be jealous, it’s Krajewski, who is a self-taught watercolour artist specializing in pet portraits.
“I wish I had his career,” he said. “I’ve had had paintings that have been for sale for a couple of years and haven’t sold. Metro’s paintings sell in minutes. I love abstract art. I’ve dabbled in it, but I couldn’t sell anything. I’m living my dream through my horse.”
Half of Metro Meteor’s earnings are allocated to a program that helps other retired race horses find homes and the other half goes to veterinary care.
“Ron believed in what we did,” Dot Morgan, founder of New Vocations, told the Star in a telephone interview from Ohio.
Morgan started the program in 1992 because so many race horses were in danger of going to slaughter after their careers were over.
“At that point, they’re an unwanted horse. It was breaking my heart,” she said.
Retired race horses have a second chance at life under her program.
Most of the thoroughbreds are adopted for pleasure riding, while the standardbreds make for good trail horses, she said.
Krajewski said he hopes that Metro’s paintings spread the message that racehorses can live happily for another 20 years after their racing careers are over.
They should be adopted instead of going to slaughter.
“Every horse has got a purpose,” Krajewski said. “I think every horse needs a job.”
Metro’s purpose will continue to be painting in the foreseeable future.
Following the avalanche of publicity, the horse has moved from being a novelty act to being the voice of racehorse adoption, Krajewski said.
The horse also has gone corporate, hiring an international property attorney to field offers for licensing of his artwork, endorsements and sponsorships so more money can be raised for racehorse adoption.
There’s one other thing that Krajewski admits that he himself adds to Metro’s artwork.
He signs Metro’s name at the bottom of the painting.
“If he could write his own name, we’d be in a whole different business.”