Metro Meteor was bred to be a racehorse. Purchased as a weanling by ObviouslyNY Stables to be their first racehorse, he was described on their website as "A bay colt with a bit of an attitude". Metro won his first race and placed in his first stakes race as a 2 year old. Prone to bone chips in his knees, Metro underwent 2 surgeries during his career to remove them, and came back to win races each time. Running turf races out of Saratoga and Belmont, Metro won 8 races and $300,000 in purse money.
A proven money earner, Metro was claimed 3 times during his career, each time for $50,000.
Photo by Barbara Livingston
When we met Metro, he was at the end of his career. Plagued with knee issues, he was running low level claiming races at Penn National. We were involved in a horse racing partnership with Renpher Stables, owning small percentages of a few racehorses, Metro being one of them. Metro had already run his last race, placed on the vet's list, Renpher's managing partner, Bob Oliva, put out the word that he was looking to retire Metro and find a good home for him.
My wife, Wendy, and I had been discussing getting her a horse for trail riding, and here was a free one. Not knowing anything about horses, and how Metro was completely the wrong horse to learn on, we decided to take him home.
We soon found out that we had our hands full. Metro was full of attitude, and himself. He was stubborn, cranky, would kick and bite at you when you tried to groom him, but we thought he was the greatest horse in the world. We just loved him.
We called a vet out to check him out and see what we had to work with. The news was not good. He had arthritis, carpitis, floating bone chips, and ulcers. The vet said it would take a lot to get him sound for riding, if he was every able to carry a rider again.
His knees were a mess. I told Wendy to go find herself another horse that she can learn to ride on. I wanted Metro for mine, and the project of getting him healthy again. I vowed to do what ever it takes to help this horse get healthy. I loved Metro and his bad attitude.
I would sit outside Metro's stall and he would hang his head out and constantly bob it up and down. I would think to myself, if I can never ride him, maybe I can teach him to hold and paint brush and put all that head bobbing to good use.
I did get to ride him. It took 9 months to get on his back, and a year before he could trot under saddle without a limp. He got periodic knee injections to lubricate his knees, a monthly shot of Adequan, daily supplements of Cosequin, and special wedge shoes with pour in pads. Metro quickly became the most expensive "free" horse ever. But everything we did, made him a little better.
But I finally got to lightly trail ride on him. He was by no means 100%. He was 50% at best. Our early trail rides were white knuckle events, me trying to hold him back as he jig and weaved, looking for any hole he can squeeze through, passing horses on his way to the front. But he did finally turn in to pretty relaxing and enjoyable ride.
The attitude never went away, and even though he gets regular groundwork, for attitude adjustment, he will always be Metro.
He is very obedient, meaning he will do anything you ask of him, only after he throws a fit, by bobbing his head up and down to let you know he is doing it "under protest".
It is this attitude that make me love him even more. Every day is an adventure.
I got 2 years of riding the trail on Metro, when I noticed he didn't have the flexibility in his knees that he used to. He never had good flexibility, but now it was even worse.
New x-rays brought bad news again. Metro was growing bone in his knees, and is predicted that he has 2-3 years before his knees lock up completely. His trail riding days are over.
I love this horse and love spending time with him. Now is the time to teach him to paint. If I can teach him to paint, we can still spend our days together, only now we will be making art. Being an artist by trade, I can choose the color schemes and he can make the brush strokes. The first thing was to teach him to target the canvas. Every time he would touch the canvas with his nose, I would reward him with a treat. Then came the brush. I would hand him the brush, and every time he would hold it in his mouth, I would take it from him and reward him with a treat. Now came the test. I didn't have a back up plan if he didn't paint once I put the two together. But luckily when faced with a canvas and brush in his mouth, he learned to stroke the canvas all on his own.
After he created his first painting, I was surprised at how good it actually looked. Maybe we could sell these and the money could defray the cost of his rising medical bills. Maybe even search out alternative treatments to head off his detrimental bone growth. When his first 2 paintings sold rather quickly, and Metro got a front page article in the local newspaper, the big picture became clear. Besides helping himself, Metro can also help other racehorses in need of loving homes.
That's when Bob at Renpher Stables suggested I contact New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program. I would have loved to have seen the look on their faces when they opened our first email. "I have a painting racehorse, and we would like to help."
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