For the past two years a Boise artist has been helping a local veterans group by selling paintings and sharing the proceeds.
That's not unusual. What is unusual is that this artist paints with his mouth, is covered completely in hair, and works for apples.
Every afternoon in the backyard of this south Boise home you can find Nancy Powers in the paddock putting a brush to her best friend.
"He's 25,' said Powers. "And I've had him since he was 3."
Tuck, all 14 hands of him, looks forward to this time while his much shorter, Shetland neighbor looks on.
"That's Gunner," Powers said, pointing the pony in the next pen. "That's his little buddy."
Then after the flies and the dust have been dealt with Powers takes Tuck to his studio. Yep, the horse has an art studio.
"And you know, when I saw this place I was just, immediately, I thought, 'I bet we could paint in there,'" said Powers. "I bet Tuck would go in there, we could paint."
Inside this one-time, one-car garage with a recently reinforced floor is where Powers becomes an artist's apprentice.
"You want your paint? You want your brush?" Powers asked Tuck. "You can just have a brush."
This is also where this quarter-century-old American quarter horse becomes a pony Picasso, of sorts.
It's a talent Tuck picked up two years ago.
"I thought, 'Well, he'll do this," remembered Powers. "Of course, he took it from me right away cause he wants everything, he wants everything you have in your hand."
One or two strokes at a time Tuck applies acrylic, dragging an appropriate horse-hair brush across the canvas.
While Tuck is paid in treats, Powers says she's sold 52 of his paintings.
"On the back I stamp them, "Original Artwork by Tuck the Painting Horse of the West," said Powers.
Half the proceeds Powers sends to the Ride for Joy veterans program.
Standing on legs that are breaking down because of of a degenerative ligament disease, Tuck can usually put in about 30 minutes of paint time. So some pieces can take days to finish. Which means the former show horse will be back at it tomorrow and that means being put out to pasture for good will have to wait.
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