METRO METEOR lived a hard, fast life as an athlete, earning around $300,000 in his time, but when he was forced to hang up his horseshoes due to an injury, this racehorse embarked on a second career as an abstract artist.
Since his paintings went up for sale in December, Metro has earned $32,000 - more than van Gogh made in his entire lifetime - and he still has both of his ears.
Metro is altruistic, too. He and his owners, Ron and Wendy Krajewski of Gettysburg, Pa., are donating half of the proceeds from his work to a racehorse adoption program.
When Metro was racing at his peak, he was one of the fastest turf sprinters in New York and raced mostly out of Saratoga and Belmont, Ron Krajewski said.
He won eight races and $300,000 during his career, but Metro was prone to knee injuries and twice had to have surgery.
As a result of his hard work at the races, Metro developed knee chips, arthritis and determinental bone growth.
When word was put out thatMetro was retiring in 2009 and looking for a good home, the Krajewskis decided to buy him as their first horse.
They got two years of riding out of Metro before his knees could no longer take the stress.
A pet portrait artist by trade, Ron Krajewski said he always thought that when Metro's riding days were done, he'd try to teach him to paint.
"Metro would always like to have something in his mouth and he likes to move his head around," Ron Krajewski said.
Ron Krajewski picks out the acrylic colors and loads the brush with paint before handing it to Metro, who grabs it between his teeth.
"I get a different artist every time I go out there. But he doesn't work small - he has a two-foot brushstroke," Ron Krajewski said.
As Metro's paintings started to pile up, Krajewski took a few to Gallery 30 in Gettysburg.
"Little did they know ... that he'd be their best-selling artist," Ron Krajewski said.
There's now a waiting list of 80 people for Metro's gallery works that sell for $850 a pop.
Metro's art is also available on eBay, where the highest bid for one of his pieces right now is $798. Krajewski said Metro has sold paintings on eBay for as much as $2,200.
Since December, Metro has sold $32,000 worth of paintings, with half of the proceeds going to his veterinary care and half to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program in Columbus, Ohio.
New Vocations takes retired racehorses, rehabilitates them from injuries and trains them for a second career, said program director Anna Ford.
"These horses are used to having a job, so retiring to greener pastures doesn't work for them," Ford said. "Putting them out in a field would be like telling a professional athlete to sit on the beach the rest of their life. It sounds great but they'd be really bored."
Ford said Metro's sucess is directly connected to Ron Krajewski's artistic ability.
"The two of them together is actually what has brought the success," Ford said. "There's a bond there that anybody that sees them can naturally pick up on."
But, like any good artist, Metro is not without his critics.
A writer with Toro Magazine in Canada recently wrote a piece on Metro titled "Horse sells painting, ruins art for everyone."
Ron Krajewski doesn't mind the criticism.
"He's not Jackson Pollock," Ron Krajewski said. "He is a horse."
In two or three years, Metro may have no flexibility left in his knees because bones are growing that restrict his flexibility, Ron Krajewski said. The half of Metro's proceeds that don't go to New Vocations go to experimental treatments aimed at reducing his bone growth.
"He's kind of paying for his own life, too," Ron Krajewski said.