The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was a cowboy at heart.
And if home is where the heart is, his heart was at Graceland – especially at Graceland’s barn.
Elvis and his family owned several horses during their years here at Graceland, and there are still horses that live in the stables behind the king’s castle. When Elvis wasn’t working, he loved to spend time riding horses all over the Graceland grounds.
In celebration of the 144th Kentucky Derby next week, let’s meet the horses who call Graceland home.
It was 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. But 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 soon bought a horse that would become his favorite, a golden palomino Quarter Horse named Rising Sun. Of course, the barn had to get a new name, too, and it became House of the Rising Sun.
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 (doesn’t that name sound familiar?) and Traveler, who had been previously owned by Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary. Elvis’ daughter Lisa also had her own horse, Moriah.
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. Alene started working as a tour guide at Graceland when it opened to the public in 1982, and she still works at Graceland as the stables ambassador. She and her team care for the four horses that live at the barn behind Graceland.
It’s easy to remember the horses’ names if you think of Elvis’ famous “Taking Care of Business in a Flash” motto: TCB with the lightning bolt. There’s Tucker, Candy, Bandit, and, making up the side-ways lightning bolt, is Max.
The “little old man” of the group is Candy, who, at 25 years old, has a few health issues. Alene and her team work overtime giving Candy the utmost care and attention. His full name is No Candy Just Cash.
There will always be a golden palomino at Graceland in honor of Rising Sun, and the palomino who lives at Graceland now is Tucker, or Tuscan Sun (they also all will have “Sun” in their names). Tucker is 20 and, according to Alene, “has an attitude. He thinks he’s prettier than everyone else.” Tucker and Candy are especially close, and Tucker checks in on Candy regularly.
Max and Bandit were adopted by Priscilla from horse rescue groups.
Max, 10, is shy. It takes a long time for him to trust someone, Alene says. His full name is Max of Maine.
The baby of the group is Bandit or Blue-Eyed Bandit, so named for his brilliant blue eyes. He’s 8 years old and loves to learn and play. Bandit and Max are pasture mates, and Max always watches out for Bandit.
The horses are definitely the king’s horses – they get the best care and treatment. A day in the life of a Graceland horse starts with breakfast, followed by grooming. The horses spent about six hours a day outside while their stalls are cleaned. Their stalls are cleaned daily, complete with fresh bedding. The horses come in at night for dinner and dessert – a cookie. Candy, who is diabetic, gets a sugar-free cookie.
The barn still features touches of Elvis: his handwriting can be seen on the walls, where he labeled each horse’s equipment.
Want to see these beauties for yourself? Visit Graceland – the horses are often out in the pasture. Graceland also offers stable tours a few times a year, usually during the Elvis Birthday Celebration in January and Elvis Week in August – weather permitting.