Metro

I tend not to purchase things on impulse. It is usually a considered and lengthy process, with all options painstakingly analysed, and often followed by periods of post-purchase reflection to evaluate if I got it right. It all started nearly 30 years ago when a dear friend bravely spent two full days going up and down the High Street with me in order to buy my first suit. Of course, I ended up with the first one I’d tried on.

Which makes it all the more astonishing that last week, literally on the spur of the moment, I bought this:

The Wife wants me to be more spontaneous, and to join her in her main mission in life which is shopping. I’m not sure she quite meant this, though. I haven’t told her yet. I’m planning on just putting it on the wall to see if she notices.

The object in question is a painting, in case you were wondering, produced by a very special artist who has no hands and holds the paintbrush in his mouth. That’s because he is a horse called Metro. He had once been a successful American racehorse, winning eight races and $300,000 prize money at Belmont Park, but was retired because of his dodgy knees. I know the feeling (dodgy knees, that is, not winning at Belmont Park).

“We were looking for a horse my wife could ride and were probably quite naive. We soon discovered Metro had worse race injuries than we had bargained for,” says his owner Ron Krajewski, who adopted him in 2009. Despite months of rehab and special shoes, X-rays in 2012 revealed his knee joints were closing up. The vet said they would lock completely within two years, at which point he would have to be put 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 remembers. 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 encourage Metro to hold a paintbrush. He took to acrylics like a duck to watercolours. Now aged 15, Metro has produced hundreds of canvasses in his bold style, sometimes likened to the work of American alcoholic and mentalist Jackson Pollock.

“You can’t predict what he’s going to do when he gets the brush in his mouth,” explains Ron “it’s controlled chaos. I’m not sure how much he can see as horses have a blind spot right in front of their noses. His strokes are thick, random and sometimes broken, which lets other colours show through. It all just vibrates on the canvas.”

Sales of the paintings, which vary in price and size from $50 to $500, helped fund a new experimental treatment for Metro. His knees are now good enough to paint a couple of days a week and spend the rest of his time running around the paddock with his pal Pork Chop. Ron now donates half of Metro’s earnings ($80,000 no less) to a charity called New Vocations, which retrains and rehomes former race horses.

Metro at work, with Pork Chop looking on

Metro and Pork Chop being more horsey

And perhaps that explains my uncharacteristic impulse purchase. Many of you will know how smitten I was with the Racehorse Sanctuary that I visited before beginning my absurd quest to go Around The Races In Eighty Days, and who continue their fine work in Somerset having recently relocated from Surrey. So much so that I pledged £1 from every hardback sold to the charity.

I have so far raised slightly less than Metro, but I still have hopes that the generous British public will find my achingly tender and roaringly funny book as meritworthy as a horse wildly slapping paint around a canvas and give to the joint worthy causes of the Racehorse Sanctuary and my ailing bank balance. We shall see. All three avenues of feeling warm and fuzzy inside are listed below:

http://www.atried.com/shop

http://www.racehorsesanctuary.org/

http://www.paintedbymetro.com/