Elvis’ Equine Legacy At Graceland
Rising Sun was Elvis’ favorite Golden Palomino, and when he came to live at Graceland in the mid-1960s, the stable was named “House of Rising Sun.”
By Nancy Brannon
Elvis Presley was quite a horse lover and so is Priscilla Presley. “Elvis always kept a black horse and a Golden Palomino on the property,” said Alene Alexander, Stable Supervisor at Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises. Keeping horses in the Graceland stable continues and, for the first time this year, the stable was opened to the public on Memorial Day.
Adopting rescued horses became a new part of the Graceland legacy in 2008, implementing Pricilla’s love and concern for animals. That’s how Blue-Eyed Bandit and Max of Maine came to live at Graceland. Max was rescued in the nick of time, as he was headed for the slaughterhouse. Bandit was rescued from starvation on a Fayette County, TN farm. Currently there are four horses at Graceland: a black horse, a new arrival n a Golden Palomino, and the two rescued horses.
The black horse resident at Graceland is “Candy,” aka No Candy, Just Cash. Candy is a retired 17-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse from Southern Serenity Farms in Jackson, TN. He is from the same bloodlines as Ebony Masterpiece and Ebony’s Double. Ebony’s Double was the last horse that Elvis purchased, the son of the 1962 World Champion Ebony Masterpiece. When Elvis first saw him as a 2-year-old at the George L. Lennox farm south of Collierville, TN, he was captivated with the horse and, right away, offered to purchase him. Ebony’s Double was soon delivered to Graceland, where he lived until his death in 2005 at the age of 32. Ebony’s Double was never shown in competition, but in 1983 he was honored with an official retirement ceremony at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration in Shelbyville, TN. Trainer Howard Hamilton, owner of Southern Serenity Farms and trainer of Ebony’s Double, purchased Just Candy No Cash after Ebony died. “He had a customer who owned Candy, and he wanted to send the retired horse to Graceland to replace Ebony,” said Alene.
Rising Sun was Elvis’ favorite Golden Palomino, and when he came to live at Graceland in the mid-1960s, the stable was named “House of Rising Sun.” Rising Sun enjoyed a full life of roaming Graceland’s pastures for 21 years, until his death in 1986. He was buried facing the rising sun in the east. After the loss of Rising Sun, another Palomino Quarter Horse, Sun’s Reflection, was brought to Graceland in 1988. Both Sun’s Reflection and Rising Sun came from the same bloodlines and were purchased from the same farm. Sun’s Reflection lived for 27 years, but died at Graceland on August 14, 2009, just two days before the anniversary of Elvis’ death, August 16. Sun’s Reflection died of respiratory distress, despite the valiant efforts of a team of veterinarians from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine to save him. Both Rising Sun and Sun’s Reflection represented Elvis’ love for the Palomino Quarter Horse.
Now, to the rescued horses, beginning with the story of Max. A group of horse lovers in Maine, headed by Carole-Terese Naser, found out about a family of horses headed to slaughter. Naser wrote in her journal, “On July 25, 2007, an email arrived on my desk. A family of six horses in Maine were slated for slaughter. My attempts to buy them directly failed. Two days later, all six horses were sold to a slaughter dealer. We bought the entire family from the dealer the next morning. The family consisted of Dad Sunny, Mom Prancer, and kids Louden, Vixen, Merlin, and Max. They were a cohesive and peaceful family unit. They were not halter-trained and easily frightened by human handling. They were in need of proper nutrition. They needed veterinary attention and basic training to dispel their fear of human touch.
“Shortly after we rescued the Six Horses in July 2007, we had T-shirts created with the a photo of the Six Horses included. We sent Six Horses T-shirts to a number of celebrities for autographs [to raise money] to help pay for hay and veterinary care.” One of those celebrity recipients, “Priscilla Presley called from California after she received the T-shirt. She had read the story [about these horses] and Priscilla not only signed the T-shirt, she wanted to help. Priscilla Presley offered a lifetime home to two of our horses, saying that she and Elvis had always kept horses at Graceland. As horses were an integral part of Presley life at Graceland, Priscilla made a commitment that horses will always have a home there as a vital aspect of the Elvis Presley legacy and Graceland experience.”
Max of Maine, one of the six horses rescued was shipped to Graceland in January 2008. Alene said, “Max was very distressed when he arrived at Graceland. He had foundered and had to spend a week in a veterinary hospital in Virginia. When he got here, no one could touch him. It took six months to make Max comfortable, but he is a real sweetheart now. Because of the difficulty in getting Max to Graceland, Pricilla decided not to move the other horse such a long distance.” Alene used the Pat Pirelli horsemanship program to gentle Max and get him trained.
Blue-Eyed Bandit was one of 17 horses who once lived on a farm in Williston, TN. In April 2008, eleven horses were being transported through Arkansas when the trailer broke down with a flat tire in Texarkana. The owner of the store noticed that the “horses looked pitiful, all skinny and malnourished. One was laying on the ground getting stepped on because she couldn’t get up,” he said. He called police and a short time later, ten of the horses were being cared for by the animal Welfare League in Texarkana, Arkansas. The owner of the horses was charged with cruelty to animals after Fayette County Animal Rescue and county officials received complaints about the treatment of his horses. Fayette County Animal Rescue cared for the remaining six horses. The owner was eventually found guilty of animal cruelty charges for mistreating 17 horses he kept on his farm. He was sentenced to a maximum 11 months, 29 days, ordered to pay a $1,700 fine and restitution of $7,849 to the Fayette County Animal Rescue, the shelter that took custody of the horses and cared for them. He was also ordered not to own any horses until 2018.
Alene said, “Bandit was one month old when he was rescued. The mare was so weak that she couldn’t feed him. All the rescued horses were adopted out, including his mother. All except one, that is, who died. Bandit is now 18 months old, and thriving at Graceland. It took a lot of work to get him to this point. The veterinarian told us that he may be five years old before he is fully grown” because of his poor start in life. Graceland is now directing information about donations for horse rescue to the Fayette County Animal Rescue. Donations can be made in Bandit’s name.
Alene’s equestrian background includes riding the 1978 World Champion Show Pleasure Racking Horse, Miss Go Girl. That year, she was honored as horsewoman of the year by the Racking Horse Association. She rode Ebony’s Double at the TWH Celebration in 1983. “I’ve ridden walking horses and racking horses my whole career. I’ve been working with horses since around 1973,”
Alene has worked at Graceland for 27 years. “When Graceland opened in 1982, I came on board as a tour guide,” she said, moonlighting after her day job as a Chemistry teacher in Memphis City Schools, which she held for 30 years. “I found the five horses that were left here, saw that they needed care and attention, and they’ve been under my care ever since.” Her official title is Stable Supervisor.
The newest excitement at Graceland stables is the adoption of another Palomino.
Alicia Dean, Media Assistant with Elvis Presley Enterprises wrote: “As you know we lost Sun's Reflection back in August. Just as we did after we lost Elvis' original Sun some years ago, we wanted to keep a golden Palomino at our stable to continue Elvis' tradition. We have been lucky enough to find a local Palomino that was rescued and now will be coming to live with us here at Graceland. Priscilla has been very involved working with stable staff to confirm this is a good match for our current herd.” His name is Tucker.
“Tucker is a 13-year-old registered Golden Palomino Quarter Horse gelding. He lived in a herd of 12 horses that included his mother and uncle. In his ninth year his mother died and he was heard calling out for her daily. He had always been in the same pasture with her his whole life and grieved deeply over this loss. During the first 9 years of his life he did not receive a lot of TLC from his human contention.
“Fours years ago in January Lyn Myers lost her horse and Tucker had lost his mom in December. Lyn was offered Tucker and the two bonded immediately, which led to Tucker's receiving all the TLC he needed. Since then Tucker has become a work of art. He is handsome, sweet, fun, charming and very smart. He is 16 hands tall, golden in color, with white mane and tail and one white sock. Due to extenuating circumstances and learning about our loss of Sun's Reflection, Lyn has offered to place Tucker at Graceland to continue the legacy of the love Elvis had for the great Golden Palomino Quarter Horse. Lyn was also involved in the rescue of our precious Bandit and his extended family.
“We are pleased about this addition and look forward to Tucker being a great addition to our Graceland family,” Dean said.
You can read more of Bandit’s story in the Fayette County Animal Rescue March newsletter: http://www.angelfire.com/tn2/FCAR/FCARNewsletter-March2009a.pdf
To read more stories about the horses at Graceland, see http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/news/graceland_rescued_horses.shtml
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