The artistic, talented and apparently highly intelligent animal pictured in the photographs and seen in the online video that accompany this article about, get this, a HORSE THAT PAINTS, did not write this.
That’d be asking a lot.
But he could probably try his nose at it.
Heck, he can slam dunk a mini basketball through a toy hoop with his mouth. He can open a mailbox and nudge up the flag. He also can flip the lid on an ice chest and grab a cold drink in his teeth. He even flashes an Elvis Presley thank-ya-lipped grin when he’s prompted to smile.
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His name is Thor.
“Thor,” in tiny neat letters, adorns the dozen or so watercolor works he has committed to canvas using a paintbrush clutched in his incisors.
(No, he doesn’t sign his name. His owner paints it for him. But, hey, he can’t do everything. Did we mention that he is a HORSE THAT PAINTS?)
Thor is an American sugarbush harlequin draft horse. But for our purposes, and for pretty much anyone who witnesses his apparently rare talent, the only description needed is that he is a HORSE THAT PAINTS.
The one main requirement for a HORSE THAT PAINTS is a having a horse owner who one day thinks, “Hmm, wonder if my horse can paint?”
When Thor was young, his owner, Dorinda Hennings, began teaching him tricks.
I said, ‘You know what? … I bet I could probably get him to paint something.’
He was born nine years ago on her small farm below U.S. 80, between Gum Branch and Echeconnee Creek. He has been painting for about a year.
“He’s like a little local celebrity,” Hennings says. “He’s redneck. He was born here right in Lizella.”
Thor, she says, will be featured in an upcoming Horse & Rider magazine item about teaching horses tricks.
By the time Thor turned 3, Hennings noticed him in her pasture picking up feed buckets with his mouth. If Hennings dropped something he’d snatch it up for her.
“One day we had a paintbrush sitting up on a board and he picked it up. I said, ‘You know what? … I bet I could probably get him to paint something.’”
She fetched a canvas.
“In 10 minutes,” Hennings says, “he was painting.”
All she does is dip a brush in paint and hand it to him.
She is quick to note that “he does not know what he’s painting. He just does abstract.”
Thor occasionally paints on an easel. Most times Hennings just holds the canvas in front of him.
He paints in windshield-wiper fashion.
Even so, people have gazed at his works and seen cats, birds and, yes, horses.
Someone in Pennsylvania bought one and hung it in a mansion, Hennings says.
Thor’s masterpieces would no doubt be admired by Pecos, err, Picasso Bill.
So far he has made about 15 paintings. A handful have sold for about $50.
While he paints, Hennings feeds him apple- and oat-flavored horse treats. The treats look like chopped-up Slim Jims. They smell like peppermint.
“I don’t know how good they taste, but he likes them,” Hennings says. “He has to get paid for his work.”
Hennings, who is 58, for a long time worked at the YKK zipper factory in Macon. Later she had a job with a veterinarian. Now she’s a Head Start instructor.
On a recent morning, she stands in her front yard: Thor’s studio.
Paintbrush in hand, Hennings sticks a plastic-handled brush in his mouth. When he chomps down it sounds like he’s jawing a sugar cube.
“Paint. … Do it,” she tells him, coaxing sweeping strokes. “Good boy.”
Thor nods up and down as he dabs and smears an orange-blue-and-red creation.
“Fireworks,” Hennings declares it.
In the distance, a donkey heehaws.
Thor shares a 4-acre spread with three donkeys and two mules — Miss Sarah and Flash.
Hennings plans to teach Miss Sarah to paint.
“There’s not a mule in the whole United States that paints,” Hennings says. “There’s a donkey in England.”
She knows of only one other HORSE THAT PAINTS.
It’s a retired racehorse in Maryland.
“I looked it up,” Hennings says. “They look like they paint about the same.”