A young Priscilla Presley enjoyed the horses pastured nearby at the Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas where her father worked as she was growing up. She loved the horses and spent time caring for them, grooming and interacting with the small herd. Their presence caused her to feel safe, calm and connected.
Recently, Ms. Presley sat down with me to talk about her passion for horses and how it has manifested in her efforts to protect the Tennessee Walking Horse so loved by Priscilla and her late husband Elvis Presley. She likes to share stories of the feelings horses evoke in us – peaceful moments and trust-filled interactions.
At Graceland there were always people around and she and Elvis would escape to their horses whenever they could. This was their favorite time to be alone in serenity and quiet, usually late at night. Priscilla noticed that Elvis was calmer around the horses and the horses taught both of them to relax at the stables. It became the Presley’s place of respite and relaxation.
Elvis had ridden horses in a few movies but hadn’t owned one before he bought Graceland.
He first bought Priscilla her horse as a Christmas present, a black Quarter Horse named Domino. Elvis watched Priscilla ride everyday from his upstairs office window. Transfixed on the beauty in both, he wanted to “get in on the fun” Priscilla remembered.
“He loved riding his first horse, "Rising Sun," with friends and even if you didn’t like a horse, you got a horse,” laughed Presley. “He wanted to share horses with all the guys and their wives. It was a time when the stables were full of horses. I think he had his greatest joy during that time. He loved it so much that he rode almost every night after the movies. He would go to talk to and pet the horses, it was really beautiful to watch.”
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When asked if it was true that she and Elvis went out in the middle of the night to buy horses, preferably Palominos, she quipped, “Oh, yes, we did that, absolutely! He would go knocking on rancher’s doors at two o’clock in the morning asking if they had a golden Palomino. We’re just standing there and they are gaping, eyes wide open, thinking they were dreaming or something.”
After Elvis surprised Priscilla with Domino for Christmas, holidays at Graceland always included horses.
He loved to ride and no matter the holiday, everyone ended up on a horse. She loved the intelligence of all the horses they enjoyed together at Graceland, and can tell stories of horses who habitually manipulated their gates to go on escapades at Graceland.
It’s no surprise that all these years later, Priscilla is still advocating for horses, whether it be riding recreationally or for the welfare of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed that Elvis so loved.
She is often found in Washington D.C. these days, educating and advocating for the PAST Act (Prevent All Soring Tactics), the federal bill to end the cruel practice of horse-soring to exaggerate the gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse in competition.
Her call to action for horse lovers is to have this painful technique banned forever.
The PAST Act needs the votes in the Senate now, as it already passed in the US House in July 2019. It's half way there, but there is a surprisingly uphill battle in the Senate before it goes to the President. Priscilla encourages anyone who cares about horses to phone their Senator at 202-224-3121 and encourage them to pass the bill S-1007.
“It’s been six years on this journey, which is way too long,” said Priscilla who is determined to see it through to its conclusion.
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Debbie Roberts Loucks grew up on Flag Is Up Farms in Solvang. She is the daughter of Monty and Pat Roberts. You can follow her on her popular podcast Horsemanship Radio.
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