Paint with a purpose

- -

There were rising artists on the backside of Saratoga Race Course during the recently concluded 2014 meeting. No they don’t use paint brushes, stencils or sponges, all they need to create a piece of art is paint, canvas paper and their nose … whiskers add a nice effect as well.

Who are these mysterious modern day Georgia O’Keeffes, you ask? One was found walking through Barn 62 on the Oklahoma Training Track, Princess of Sylmar with trainer Todd Pletcher. Two others were in Barn 16 on the main track, Sweet Reason and Wonder Gal with trainer Leah Gyramati.

Their time spent on creating these masterpieces is for a good cause, to help a horse that could at one time been a stablemate or even a past opponent.

The finished products of these three fillies, along with many more fellow leading Thoroughbreds, have become known as Moneighs. The idea was started by ReRun, a Thoroughbred aftercare organization that has created a unique way to raise money for retired racehorses. They came up with the word by combining the famous artist’s name Monet with the horses’ neigh-tive tongue.

So how does a horse manage to create art on canvas? It’s simple. Representatives from ReRun extract colors of the owner’s silks onto a paper plate. There is some bribery with a treat, not only to tolerate paint applied on their nose but to create authenticity with their mouth movements on the canvas paper. In some cases its not so easy, take Sweet Reason for example.

The incredible winner of three Grade 1 stakes races, including the Test this summer at Saratoga, fell asleep during her turn. After her first Moneigh and mint she was not too impressed. She simply enjoyed the attention, let her head slightly droop as well as her eye lids. This is when it can be tricky. They need a little help when the art gets to be too relaxing, the canvas paper is moved around to encourage some form of reaction. None was received from Sweet Reason, proving her class and allowing the process to continue without any resentment… at least until the feed cart rolled past.

Princess of Sylmar also had an appetite for art. Her medium? Mixed media. She swirls paints of sparkled teal, purple and white with chunks of carrots along with one mint that she stored in her mouth for ten minutes before dropping as a finishing touch.

Wonder Gal changed up the color scheme. Instead of the owner’s silks she went with red, white and blue to show her patriotism.

Once the painting process is done the horses autograph their work. Black paint is applied to their shoe and the canvas is stamped with their signature. A part of their mane or tale is cut or pulled, placed on the canvas with a ribbon, then they are photographed with their Moneigh to prove the piece is an original.

The Moneighs are matted and auctioned off in the ReRun Ebay store or during periodic live auctions, with proceeds going to the charity’s Thoroughbred adoption program.