He’s tall, dark, and handsome…and his paintings have been the best-selling artwork in Gettysburg, PA’s Gallery 30 since he started to showcase his talent. His name is Metro Meteor, and he’s an off-the-track Thoroughbred.
When Ron Krajewski adopted then six-year-old “Metro” from Penn National Race Course in 2009, Krajewski had no idea what he was getting into. “I was in a racing partnership where you could own three percent of four or five racehorses, and one of those horses was Metro. My wife Wendy and I were actually looking into adopting a different horse, but we were kind of talked into giving Metro a home,” said Krajewski. “He probably wasn’t the best horse for us at the time, but now we consider him a blessing.”
Bone Chips & Navicular
A talented sprinter with a big attitude, Metro had enjoyed the limelight of the tracks at Saratoga and Belmont, earning just shy of $300,000 during his career. Born with problematic knees, Metro endured two surgeries to remove bone chips and each time returned to the track to race again in triumph. However, Metro’s quickness began to falter when signs of bone growth appeared in his knees in 2009. He was finished as a racehorse.
“We wanted to learn on him, do a little light riding and ride the trails,” said Krajewski. “We had nine months of original rehabilitation, and we did enjoy the trails for a short while. But the knee problems came back.” The veterinarian pronounced that Metro had a chronic degenerative disease, and would need to be euthanized within the next two years because his knees would lock up completely and render him immobile. Krajewski had become completely attached to the gelding that always greeted him with a nicker, and gave him every knee treatment known at the time to try and save his life.
“Our vet ended up getting a license to import Tildren from Europe, a then-experimental drug used to treat navicular and not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. We centralized it in the knee joint, and after a few months, we found that the treatment was actually reversing the knee growth,” said Krajewski. “Tildren has since been approved in the United States, and we can say it saved Metro’s life.”
Pass the Paintbrush
Now while that may be a heartwarming story in itself, there is another twist in Metro’s tale. While spending so much time on the ground with his injured gelding, Krajewski learned about Metro’s personality, character, and quirks. “He’s a cool horse, and loves to be the center of attention. I noticed he consistently bobs his head…these floor to ceiling head bobs,” said Krajewski.
As an artist, a tiny thought wiggled into Krajewski’s mind. “It was in the back of my head, just wondering what would happen if I could get him to hold a paintbrush,” said Krajewski about Metro. After working on it for five days, just ten minutes each day, Metro learned to hold a paintbrush in his mouth and both his and Krajewski’s lives changed. “After learning to hold a brush, the rest is easy,” said Krajewski. “I pick the colors and load the brush for him, he will take it in his mouth and make four or five loose, abstract strokes of his own, and then we will repeat.”
It takes between three and four days to complete a painting as Krajewski and Metro use one color at a time, letting each layer dry before the next is applied. “He has no edge control, so he will smear the colors together and make mud if we don’t do blue one day and orange the next,” explained Krajewski. “Metro has these broken strokes that vibrate against each other and create a neat effect. Humans can’t make these types of strokes; we are too inside our own heads. He paints simply because he likes to paint.”
Paint it Forward
All of his medical treatments and joint injections were quite costly, and Krajewski thought maybe it was time for Metro to pull his own weight. His paintings were displayed at the local Gallery 60, and immediately Metro became the top-selling artist featured there. The profits from the paintings went straight back to Metro’s veterinary bills, effectively paying for the treatments that saved his life.
“This is his second career—he’s strictly a painting horse now,” said Krajewski. “We paint based on supply and demand. A couple of years ago we had over a hundred people on a waiting list, with the paintings selling before they even hit the gallery wall. Now we have a couple hanging around the house, a few smaller ones we sell online, and a few where we’ve combined brush strokes and painted together.”
In addition to the paintings, Krajewski and Metro recently released a coloring book together called “Coloring with Metro,” the first ever coloring book designed by a horse. It features Metro and his barn buddies—Pork Chop, the chestnut pasture pal, Lamont the donkey, and Stubby, the blind and deaf cat— hidden within authentic Metro strokes. Krajewski drew the figures, and then handed the paint pan to Metro for him scribble over it. “It ultimately gives a stained glass effect,” explained Krajewski. “You can make your own artwork or find the animas within the lines.”
Coming soon for Metro fans is an exclusive tell-all 320-page biography titled “How a Crippled Racehorse Rescued Himself (and Me) With a Paintbrush,” written by Krajewski himself. The book will be available in April 2016 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.
Fifty percent of all of Metro’s painting and book sales are donated to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, helping save other horses that are ready for life after the racetrack. Metro and Krajewski have raised over $80,000 to date with their donations and plan to continue helping retired racehorses transitioning into second careers.
Metro can also be seen working on his autograph, signing books and paintings with his signature “M.” While he may need to keep working on his penmanship, Metro continues to light up homes and faces of children and adults alike with his colorful, organic paintings and natural artistic ability.