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The Horse With a Penchant for Painting

Jan 18, 2019 | 831 videos
Video by Joel Pincosy and Joe Egender

Stories of people and animals bringing comfort to one another are a dime a dozen on the internet. But every once in a while, an interspecies communion rises above the din. Ron Krajewski and his horse, Metro Meteor, are one such pair. The short documentary My Paintbrush Bites, directed by Joel Pincosy and Joe Egender and premiering today on The Atlantic, tells their remarkable story—one of a reclusive failed artist who finds redemption in the unlikeliest of places.

When Krajewski rescued Metro, the thoroughbred was on the brink of death. He had once been a successful racehorse, with eight winning races at the prestigious Belmont Park and $300,000 in prize money to his name. But severe injuries forced Metro’s stable to retire him. Krajewski, looking for an affordable horse for his wife to ride, bought Metro in the nick of time; had he not done so, the horse would surely have been sent to the slaughterhouse.

Shortly after they rescued him, though, the Krajewskis would discover how severe Metro’s health problems were. Just one trail ride rendered him unable to walk. The vet gave him a year to live. And to make matters worse, the horse had an attitude; he would often bite or kick those who attempted to touch him.

“Everybody had said that Metro’s not going to amount to anything,” Krajewski says in the film. “Well, we found a skill for him, and he’s pretty good at it.”

Krajewski had always dreamed of being an artist, but his abstract paintings never sold. When he noticed that Metro had an interesting tic—he would often bob his head up and down and side to side—Krajewski had what he terms a “crazy” idea. He taught Metro to hold a paintbrush. Using horse treats as a reward, he then taught the horse to touch his nose to the canvas.

“He went to town and just started painting,” Krajewski says.

Sure enough, the horse had a penchant for art. Krajewski sold Metro’s paintings to a local gallery, attracting international attention and buyers. Over the course of his career, Metro’s work would raise more than $80,000—some of the proceeds going to the horse’s experimental and very expensive bone-remodeling treatments. (Krajewski also donated a large sum to racehorse-rescue programs.)

“When Metro started taking off, I was kind of living my dream through him,” says Krajewski in the film. “Even though Metro’s name is on [the paintings], you know, that’s my artwork, too. Would I love to be a successful abstract artist? Sure I would. I’m not, but my horse is.”

Co-directors Pincosy and Egender told The Atlantic that Krajewski and Metro’s story revealed itself to be about more than just a painting horse. “What really drew us in was the fact there were multiple layers to this story,” Egender said. “Both [Krajewski and Metro] were hurt by the outside world, becoming isolated and feisty as a result. Yet both yearned for connection, and the fame from the paintings created an avenue.”

According to Pincosy, Ron loved Metro passionately, and also “saw him as a vehicle to achieve his dream—like a Little League father and his star athlete son.”

“It's one thing reading about or even watching a film of a horse that paints,” Egender said. “But to actually be in the barn and watch this massive animal take a paintbrush and make stroke after stroke is quite something to experience.” Egender admitted that he will never know if Metro was simply performing for treats. “Regardless, it was quite a feat for Ron to teach his horse to paint while seemingly enjoying it,” he said.

While Metro’s experimental treatment was able to extend his life far beyond his original prognosis, the horse sadly succumbed to his leg injuries last spring.

“His rambunctious attitude and health issues were a constant challenge, but we never gave up on him and he rewarded us by taking us on his amazing journey,” Krajewski wrote in a statement. “He was truly a special horse.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.