Tag Archives: paint

How to choose a paintbrush for your horse

Photo of Metro holding paintbrush
How Metro holds his brush.
Photo by Wendy Wooley.

Horses are prey animals. In the wild, they are dinner for big cats. A horse’s biggest fear is that lions and tigers are going to grab them by the legs, or jump on their backs and start chewing away on them. So what do we do? We jump on their backs and make them carry us around, and just to make it more uncomfortable for them, throw a saddle on them made from the hides of other dead animals. No wonder they try to buck us off. To give them a fighting chance in the wild, Mother Nature has given them eyes on the side of their heads. This gives them the ability to watch for predators approaching with a nearly 360 degree view. But it also gives them 2 blind spots where they can’t see. One is directly behind him. That’s why you are always told to not walk behind a horse. You might get kicked. Not because the horse has a mean streak, he doesn’t know what is behind him. He is just kicking out in defense at the unknown. For all he knows, you may be a mountain lion trying to sneak up on him.

Another blind spot is directly in front of his face. He can see in front of him very well, just not right in front of him. I am not sure how far that bling spot projects out, but I know it is there. They can actually see better in front of them, because they can see out of both eyes at the same time, giving them better depth perception. They just can’t see right in front of their nose.

Photo of cheap bristle brushes
Metro’s favorite cheap bristle brush. Some of the bristles are cut to give Metro’s brushstroke variety.

So when Metro paints, holding the brush in his mouth, I am not sure he can even see what he is painting. He may be able to see the canvas, though he has never shared this with me. But he knows where to stand, and how far to reach out so the brush makes contact with the canvas. He has a routine, and I try not to mess with that.  So I try to keep the brushes the same length, as not to throw off that routine. There were times when I would give him a longer brush than he was used to, and it would be a struggle for him to make a good brush stroke. So we try to keep them the same size, usually 7-8 inches. That is the length he likes, and Metro gets what Metro wants.

Artist paint brushes
Artist paint brushes modified for Metro

The cheap bristle brushes you get from Home Depot are his brush of choice, but lately I have been introducing him to smaller artist brushes that us human artists use. These usually run long, sometimes with 1 to 2 foot handles, but I will saw those off to keep them within Metro’s comfort zone.

photo of broken paint brushes
Bucket of broken paintbrushes

Does he break brushes? Oh Yeah! Sometimes we only get one or two strokes out of a brush before he breaks it. The big boy doesn’t know his own strength. I just toss the broken brush into a five gallon bucket we keep below his easel, grab another and press on.

I duct tape all the handle up for Metro. Not that he needs the tape for grip, I just don’t want the handle to splinter in his mouth when he breaks one.

Now that I know Metro will paint with anything, as long as it is the correct length, I will be spending my time looking for new brushes that will add variety and texture to Metro’s paintings.

Ses Metro’s paintings at www.PaintedbyMetro.com

Photo of Finished painting
One of Metro paintings using a combination of large and small brushes.

The Bad News Part 1

November 2012.

It had been 7 days since we took new x-rays of Metro’s knees. It had never taken that long to get the results back before, but for some reason it took Metro’s vet, Dr. Kim Brokaw, a week to get back to us and make an appointment to talk about them. I already new what the news was going to be though. One good thing about having a vet that rides at the barn every day, is that I get to pick her brain about Metro. I had once asked her how Metro was going to go out of this world. Having a horse with as many health problems as Metro, I knew he wasn’t going to live a long and healthy life. Metro was not going to die of old age. Long  before his time, there were going to have to be tough decisions.

And I made the mistake of asking Kim what Metro’s end would be. Kim is a brilliant up-and-coming young vet, but she doesn’t sugar-coat anything when she gives you bad news. If your pet is going to die a painful death, she will tell you. There is no “rainbow bridge” or green pastures with wildflowers. Only pain and death. She had told me that eventually bone would start growing in Metro’s damaged knees, closing the gaps to where he would have no flexibility. Every day life would be painful for him, and one day he would lay down, and not be able to stand up again. There was going to be no happy ending for Metro. This was not a Sylvester Stallone movie, Metro was not going to come back and get a shot to fight the champ. He was done being a horse.

As we sat on Ed’s porch, holding Metro’s X-Rays up to the sun, I found out why it had taken so long to get the X-Rays back. Kim had them, she was just afraid to delivery the bad news. She was also using the time to research treatments to save his life.

“How long does he have?”

“One year…maybe two.”

He was no longer healthy enough to carry a rider, or do ground work. Pretty much, he was just healthy enough to turn out to pasture and wait for the inevitable to happen. Kim did offer a treatment we could try. It was unproven treatment, the drug would need to be imported from Europe, because it was not approved by the FDA, would cost thousands of dollars, and she had no idea if it would work. A “Hail Mary” pass with money we did not have.

I sat there in silence as Kim waited for me to say something, anything. To ask her a question. I only had one question….

“Is he healthy enough to paint?”

To be continued in Part 2…


Support New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program by purchasing Painted by Metro items at Dream Green USA.