IENGLISH LISTENING: Metro, the Horse who Paints
Metro, the Horse who Paints (Upper Intermediate)
DESCRIPTION: Taken from the Vinny Hurrell Show on BBC Radio Ulster. An interview with the owner of a retired racehorse whose paintings sell for up to $500.
Give in (phrasal verb) = stop working
Earn your keep (verb/idiom) = do something to pay for your accommodation
Limp (verb) = walk uncomfortably because of an injury
Rehab (noun) = rehabilitation: The process of recovering from an injury/illness
Canvas (noun) = the surface used for oil painting
Extroverted (adjective) = having a loud, colourful, outgoing personality
Board (noun) = the provision of accommodation and food in exchange for payment
Metro retired because his ___________ stopped working
The biggest expense for Metro is __________
Metro enjoys painting and _________________
How did Ron teach Metro to paint?
How many people are on the waiting list for a painting by Metro?
How much of the money from Metro's paintings goes to charity?
Brid jokes that tonight she'll try to make her ___________ paint
Presenter: We’re going to hear about Metro. Now, there is a paper called ‘Metro’, did you ever read that? No? No? No. I’ve read it before but this is not about the paper. Metro was actually a champion racehorse in the United States, until his knees gave in.. a bit like myself. Haha not sure I was really in the racehorse category. Then Ron Krajewski stepped in to give him a retirement home, but there was a deal to be had because Metro the horse would have to earn his keep. Ron is an artist and in time Metro has become one too, you might think I’m joking you but I am not. Ron has been telling me the great story of the unique artist with the brushstrokes of Jackson Pollock.
Ron Krajewski: We met Metro, he was running in a track here at Penn National. We knew the stable owner. He formally raced at Belmont Saratoga, the New York circuit [was] did really well there but his knees were declining. He couldn’t compete there anymore. He ended up in Pennsylvania for his last couple races and when he limped back after his first race he was retired and they couldn’t find a home for him, just because of his knee injuries. He didn’t have much chance at a second career [for] as a riding horse but we took him of the track, adopted him and gave him a home.
Presenter: He adopted a horse, that’s a pretty big thing to do because I would assume it’s quite expensive to look after them.
Ron: Yeah, it is, especially Metro. He’s probably the most expensive free horse ever. You know, he’s got a lot of vet bills. We rode him for a little bit. It took about nine months of rehab and a lot of vet bills to get him to where he was healthy enough to ride, but, his knees caught up with him again and the vet told us that his riding days were over.
Presenter: Would you know, even roughly, how much you’ve spent on Metro in terms of his vet bills to date, Ron?
Ron: Oh, I’m sure probably in the tens of thousands of dollars. The knee treatments alone that we give him are [they’re] runs (into) thousand (of) dollars every time. We spend quite a lot on his vet bills but he’s worth it.
Presenter: He’s worth it. Well that takes me onto the main reason that I’ve called you, it’s not just to talk about your pet horse, and that is a remarkable second chance at life that Metro has now taken on board in that he is a horse that can paint! How on earth did you come across that?
Ron: He’s always liked to be the centre of attention; he’s a real extroverted horse.
Presenter: Hold on Ron, how do you be an extroverted horse? Is he prancing around with feather boas or looking for attention doing show tunes?
Ron: Yeah, I mean if you walk in a barn and there’s ten horses there, your Metro is gonna let you know which one he is, he’s got his head over a stall door, he’s throwing it up and down trying to get your attention and just the head bobbing; the artist in me was thinking: ‘you know, someday I’m gonna put a paintbrush in that mouth, see if he can do something with it’.
Ron: And that’s kinda when it came to the point that he wasn’t a riding horse anymore. I was looking for something to keep him busy so I said now’s the time to put that brush in his mouth, see if he’ll paint.
Presenter: And did you tell any of your family or friends that you were about to do this or were you worried about how they might react?
Ron: I told my wife, and she was kind of disbelieving of it. It didn’t take long for him, he was making strokes on canvas and everybody became believers up pretty soon.
Presenter: So the first time you did this, Ron that you just basically line him up in front of a canvas, stick a paintbrush in his mouth and see what happens?
Ron: The first thing I did was, you know, just standing there with him, I had a canvas in my hand and I’d just hold it in front of his face. Whenever he touched it with his nose, I would reward him with a treat and soon he was figuring he was gonna get a horse treat every time he touched the canvas, and then I put the paintbrush in his mouth and he held it for five seconds, I’d take it out and give him a horse treat, and pretty soon, you know, he was connecting, you know; hold the brush, touch the canvas. Then it was like, I don’t know how to teach him how to make brushstrokes, I don’t teach him how to make up and down strokes with his head, but, luckily, he did all that on his own. You know, when I put that brush in his mouth and put him in front of a canvas, he started making paint strokes and that was something he did.
Presenter: And I take it he’s not doing portraits. What kind of, eh, what kind of things is he painting?
Ron: Uh, they’re very abstract, I mean, if youre gonna compare him to someone in the art world, look at a Jackson Pollock painting; the meandering lines, the drip paintings. Metro’s brushstrokes are a lot like a Jackson Pollock.
Presenter: How does it work with a horse, in terms of their eyesight and their ability to see colour or see in the first place, does that affect his painting?
Ron: Uh, horses can see colours, not the spectrum that we see so I’m not exactly sure what colours he can see. I don’t think he really cares what colour he’s painting with. He just, uh, you know I choose the colours for him; he just puts them on the canvas.
Presenter: It’s not just a hobby now, and you’re able to sell some of Metro’s work?
Ron: Yeah, I mean, it started out just a way to keep him busy and spend time with him, but then, you know, after I started looking at these paintings, what we were producing together, I was like, wow these are gallery quality paintings, and you know, we took them down to the gallery and soon, you know, he was on the news and within months he was on national TV. Now there’s a hundred people on a waiting list to get one of his paintings.
Presenter: Oh, you’re kidding me!
Ron: Yeah, he’s a pretty popular artist.
Presenter: Because I keep going back to that initial reaction, Ron, when you told people, or said to this gallery; “Here are some paintings I think they’re great and my horse, Metro, did them in the barn.” Did they not look at you like you’re mad?
Ron: Yeah, but, I mean, if you see his paintings hanging in a gallery, you’ll look at it and they will look colourful, the strokes will be interesting, you might buy it not even knowing that it was painted by a horse. I mean, just being painted by a horse is just a bonus.
Presenter: In a way, the painting has helped to save his life, because when you first bought him, there was a chance that he would have to be put down within a couple of years because of his knees, and now the money he’s raising from these paintings, would you tell me, where is that going?
Ron: He has to have knee treatments because he’s got detrimental bone growth in his knees. His knees are so damaged that his body is generating bone growth and what it does is close up the gaps in his knees. If we don’t keep up on it, his knees are gonna lock up. We’ve got to get him periodic injections and knee treatments just to keep him flexible, keep him from locking up, because if he lays down on the pasture and he can’t stand up on his own, there’s not a lot we can do for him, so half the money goes to Metro’s care; his board, his vet treatments. The other half goes to a charity called ‘New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Programme’ and they take retired racehorses off the track, just like Metro. If they’ve gotten injuries, they’ll rehab them, they’ll train him for second careers and they’ll find homes for them and since we started this, Metro and his paintings, we’ve been able to raise over eighty thousand dollars to help other horses.
Presenter: That’s unbelievable, that’s a lot of money.
Ron: Yeah it is a lot of money, especially, you know, coming from a horse, he doesn’t have any pocket.
Presenter: It is incredible, I can’t wait to see what the dogs and cats in your home can do if your horse can paint. Do any of your other animals have special talents like Metro has?
Ron: No we’ve got another horse, he’s got no interest in painting and you know we got two cats and they have no interest in anything, so you know that’s about it.
P: There you go, just when you think you’ve heard it all. That was Ron talking about Metro the horse who paints paintings, and you can actually buy these things for, up to, I think five hundred dollars. Any talented pets, Bríd, in your house?
Brid: Well we have a dog and I’m gonna try it tonight but I’m not gonna hold out any hope that he might pay for his very expensive vet treatments for himself.
P: As I was saying, I would take a portrait from Metro of producer Seamus. I would hang that in my house. Would you take that, Chris?
Chris: I think Ron has convinced people that it’s worth parting with money for a painting by a horse, I think fair play to him. I think if he managed to get people to think that the horse resembles a Jackson Pollock’s quality of… he’ll probably get a chimp to paint like Picasso, or at least have people believe and that part with money for that too.
Presenter: Well you like art don’t you, Bríd?
Bríd: it’s a wonderful reflection on modern art, the fact that no one can tell the difference between a horse and you know, somebody who can bring in millions of dollars. I think it’s a great send up. Brilliant. Brilliant.
Presenter: If anything I think it’s a good story to tell. ”Well where’s that from?”, “Well let me tell you where that… what the story behind that is!”