The University’s newest artistic talent doesn’t spend his time in a typical studio – instead, he creates his paintings at the Large Animal Hospital on the St. Paul campus.
Hercules, a Belgian gelding horse, has been creating hoof print paintings as gifts to donors at the new Equine Center, which is under construction.
Donors receive a one-of-a-kind piece – which coordinators dubbed a “Moneigh” – by donating at the $50 level.
Even though painting is a messy process, Veterinary Medical Center manager Sheryl Ferguson said Hercules has “such a personality” that he seems to love it.
“He’s a ham,” she said. “Any time he can get attention, he lives it up.”
The unofficial mascot at the Large Animal Hospital, Hercules is the resident blood donor because of his large size and his universal blood type, Ferguson said.
Hercules began his painting career during the fall when groundbreaking began.
“People liked it and it was kind of fun to do, and so we just continued on from there,” Ferguson said.
Hercules created 100 prints, 10 of which have been sold, said Stephanie Pommier, a development officer at the College of Veterinary Medicine.
She said fundraising has now moved beyond the initial large gifts. For smaller donations, donors can place engraved bricks at the center and sponsor horse stalls.
Equine Center officials need to raise about $2 million to reach their $7.3 million goal, she said. The University is covering the remaining balance of the $14 million total.
The center’s grand opening will be this fall and Pommier said they hope to complete fundraising efforts within the next year.
Construction on the Equine Center is on pace to finish in late summer, said veterinary population medicine professor, Trevor Ames.
The facility will include a clinic to evaluate performance horses, an arena to host events, a research barn to house the animals and a conference center for University and community horse organizations.
Among the more unique features will be a state-of-the-art treadmill to evaluate horses as they exercise.
The facility also will provide space for a better rehabilitation program, Ames said.
The center’s new MRI unit will be “one of the stronger magnets available for use in veterinary medicine in North America,” he said.
Many of the horses will be “multi-use” horses, Ames said, which can be used for teaching in the animal science program and also for therapeutic programs, summer camps and the University Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
Animal science junior Rebecca Rodvold said she is excited for the center’s completion because she is working toward a career in sports medicine for horses.
“What they’re building has exactly what I want to study,” she said.