Just in time for the Kentucky Derby, we wanted to bring you The Story of All the King’s Horses, enhanced with photos and videos. Horses are all the rage during Kentucky Derby time! Elvis and his family owned several horses during their years at Graceland. When Elvis wasn’t working, he loved to spend time riding horses all over the Graceland grounds.
They were good therapy for him. Riding horses gave him a way to escape the spot light and glamour of his celebrity life.
It seems almost destined for Elvis to own horses.
In 1957, Elvis purchased Graceland, which included the barn behind the mansion itself. The barn, like the house, was built in 1939. Graceland was originally a cattle farm, and the barn actually had air conditioning before the mansion did, to keep the prize bull cool.
When Elvis moved in, he kept a few animals in the barn – he owned a few horses and a donkey. “Actually, Elvis was a little bit afraid of horses at first because of something that happened on a movie set,” says Alene Alexander, Graceland’s stable supervisor. She’s referring to the time a horse ran away with the actor during production of Flaming Star, in which Elvis plays Pacer Burton, the son of a Kiowa mother and Texas rancher father who ends up caught between both worlds.
He became a serious horse owner in 1966. That Christmas, Elvis purchased a Quarter Horse named Domino for Priscilla, his soon-to-be wife. He also purchased a horse named Sheba for Priscilla’s friend Sandy, so the pair could ride their horses together. Elvis was no longer afraid.
“After he saw Priscilla ride, he became interested in owning a horse,” says Alexander, a former schoolteacher who became the King’s de facto equine historian after 30 plus years at Graceland. “Not just any horse — he had to have a golden palomino. “He would take the guys [in his entourage] and Priscilla, and they would go out and literally knock on people’s doors who had horses, looking for a golden palomino.” It was often 3 in the morning when he took those horse-hunting trips. “Elvis couldn’t travel during the day. If he did, the world would be following him … His father [Vernon] had a house back here that was real close to the stables, so they put a gate from the stable into Vernon’s carport so Elvis could zoom out there and go out into the neighborhood to escape. But if they really wanted to get him out of here, they would send a limousine out the front gate and an old beat-up truck out the gate back by the barn. Elvis would be in that old beat-up truck, but the world would be following the limousine.”
Elvis soon bought a golden palomino that would be come his favorite! A Quarter Horse named Rising Sun. Of course, the barn had to get a new name, too, and it became House of the Rising Sun.
Alexander says. “He loved that horse, groomed that horse, and came back to the barn by himself and just hung out with the horse.”
Elvis was known to sometimes ride the palomino to the famous white gates of his Memphis mansion to sign autographs, but Rising Sun was oblivious to the superstar’s fame. “I’ve always said that Rising Sun was probably the only animal that really knew Elvis Presley the man, because the horse didn’t know he could sing, never knew him in a jumpsuit, and never went to a concert,” Alexander recalls. “All he wanted was to love Elvis and give his time.”
The video below is an original song about Rising Sun and Elvis.
It wasn’t long before the barn was full of horses. One of Elvis’ favorites was a Tennessee Walking Horse named Bear.
He also loved Mare Ingram, a grand mare he named after Memphis Mayor William B. Ingram. He purchased horses for his friends and family, too.
A few of Elvis’ horses include Ebony’s Double, Beauty, Buckshot, Lady, Golden Sun, Star Trek, Sun Down, Thundercloud, Memphis, Flaming Star (yes- just like the movie of the same name!) and Traveler, who had been previously owned by Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary. Elvis’ daughter Lisa also had her own horse, Moriah.
Here is a home movie of Elvis riding.
The last horse Elvis purchased was a Tennessee Walking Horse named Ebony’s Double. Alene Alexander rode Ebony’s Double in the horses’s retirement ceremony in 1983 at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration.
Here is a look at the stables of Graceland in 2014.
To learn more about each horse, check out the book below. You can purchase it through our Amazon affiliate link to help us keep the lights on here at TCB Radio Network.
Interview and Article Source: Cowboys and Indians Magazine