There won't be a Graceland Challenge Trophy
at the nation's premier walking horse competition next year after its
donor, Priscilla Presley, decided to take it back after three decades.
said she didn't know the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration
still awarded the trophy, given in memory of her ex-husband, Elvis
Presley. She attended the Shelbyville, Tenn., event in 1983 and donated
it as part of an exhibition featuring Ebony's Double, the last walking
horse Elvis Presley ever bought. She thought it was a one-time award,
but it's been given every year since and is listed in the latest
Celebration program under prizes for the Four-Year-Old Walking Horse
World Grand Championship.
Today, she owns two Tennessee Walking
Horses, stabled on the grounds of the Presley family's Graceland estate
in Memphis, and is a vocal supporter of a federal bill seeking to end
abuse of the breed.
"Graceland isn't going to support this, knowing what we know now," Presley said Tuesday. "We want that trophy back.
"I can't support the trophy when inhumane methods are used on these horses. I can't support it."
Celebration hasn't yet received the request, said CEO Mike Inman, but
that could be because the offices are closed for the holidays. He said
he would like a chance to speak to Presley before she makes a final
"I believe she'd come to a different conclusion," Inman said.
At issue is H.R. 1518, a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield,
R-Ky., and co-sponsored by more than 200 others, which would end the use
of the tall horseshoes and ankle chains used by the breed's performance
division to accentuate its naturally higher, longer gait. Some
unscrupulous trainers chemically burn the horses' pasterns or hide
irritants in the shoes to exaggerate the gait even further, a process
known as "soring."
The bill also would reform horse inspections at shows and stiffen penalties for soring.
leaders oppose it, saying the bill would prompt a dramatic negative
economic impact without addressing underlying problems - which they say
already are being handled. They cite measurable improvement in the
number of citations written for suspected abuse and a study that showed
the light chains are harmless.
But severe cases recently uncovered
in Tennessee drew national attention to the problem. Jackie McConnell,
once a Celebration Hall of Fame horse trainer, was convicted of
violating the Horse Protection Act last year after the Humane Society of
the United States released a stomach-turning undercover video of abuse
in his Collierville, Tenn., stables. A grand jury indicted Maryville,
Tenn., trainer Larry Wheelon this month on charges of similar abuse.
Presley said she learned about the Celebration trophy from Keith
Dane, the Humane Society's vice president of equine protection, and has
thrown her support behind the bill. She said calling on her friends to
do the same is the biggest project she's involved with right now.
said support from Presley, a respected celebrity and once a part of one
of the nation's most beloved couples, is significant. "She knows that
this legislation is the only thing that will protect walking horses from
the abusive practice of soring and end it once and for all," he said.
a business manager, actress and designer who lives in Los Angeles, said
she has loved horses since childhood but got to know the Tennessee
Walking Horse breed when Elvis purchased one to ride around the grounds
"We both fell in love with this horse," she said.
"We knew a little bit of the lingo, but we didn't know what went on
behind the scenes. We were very naive in thinking that's just the way
these horses were. We were novice horse owners.
"We rode just
about every day all over the 13 or 14 acres, and people would stop their
cars to watch. Elvis was an entertainer; he loved to show his horses.
To be honest, we didn't know anything about the soring, the pads and the
bracelets. If we did, we never would have been behind this horrendous
Inman said he had not received any other requests to take back
trophies, and he actually had to turn away trophies for this year's
Celebration in some classes because there were getting to be too many.
printed program shows a total of 10 trophies, ribbons, awards and
floral arrangements in the class where the Graceland Challenge Trophy is