Retired Horse Takes Up Painting

February 29, 2016 11:20 AM

Life isn’t too tough as a retired horse. Those working days are now distant memories. And then there’s Nick. He’s an overachieving Appaloosa Clydesdale.

Horses like Nick work hard for a living. The 22-year-old Appaloosa Clydesdale used to be a carriage horse on Mackinac Island. He then switched jobs, becoming a lesson and drill team horse.

Arthritis has since slowed him down. But, just like many of us, he’s not done working just yet, even in his elder years.

Nick now passes the time by painting. The Danada Equestrian Center at the Forest Preserve of DuPage County, Ill., taught him with the help of a clicker and endless nibbles.

“It’s nice to just get him moving, get him more active. Any stimulation is good on horses,” said Equestrian Assistant Margaret Gitter.

Through the process, Nick hasn’t just developed a signature look. He’s also canvasing his own style.

“Jackson Pollock was the artist people were comparing him to because of his broad stroke and a lot of color. We let him do his own technique,” said Gitter.

It shows. The center has taught other retired horses to paint as well. But Nick’s work stands out among the herd. “Some of the other horses do like blotches or spots," Gitter said. "Nick just decided at the beginning to do broad strokes. So, we encouraged it."

For Nick, we may never know if it’s a relaxing release, a game with splashes of color, or if it’s quite possible for a horse to possess a ‘painter’s eye.’

“I think he has a soft eye. I think his eyes show how calm he is,” said Gitter.

What is known is that once the hat comes off and the paint is set to dry, this equestrian Pollock or Picasso returns to his pasture, ready for another day of rest and retirement.

Nick’s paintings are for sale at the equestrian center. He’s not the only accomplished horse to have lived in those stables. They were once home to Lucky Debonair, the 1965 Kentucky Derby winner.

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