Priscilla Presley fell in love with Tennessee walking horses after former husband and music icon, Elvis Presley, bought a pair for their 13-acre Memphis estate, Graceland. Decades later in 2011, footage gathered during an in depth undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society exposing the cruelties being done to the horse breed went viral.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a finalized ban on the abusive practice of “horse soring” in the final days of the Obama administration, however it was later made moot after the White House pulled all unpublished rules and regulations to be sent back for review following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
“Soring” is an abusive practice towards Tennessee walking horses used as a method to exaggerate their gait, or “Big Lick”. Soring typically involves the cooking of poisonous chemicals into the skin of the horses legs combined with the binding of chains and stack shoes to their hooves, resulting in severe pain to the horses hooves. Holding the breed dear to her heart, Presley urges the new president to make the issue a priority.
“I’m hoping that President Trump will have it in his heart to take a look at this and show his compassion for animals,” Presley said according to The Tennessean. “It would be a wonderful sign that he is a compassionate man.”
Currently, the horse industry is solely responsible for training and managing professionals to inspect barns suspected of the abuse, which the USDA finds a major conflict of interest. Often when a horse barn is being audited, federal agents sent to investigate the issue find sored horses previously unreported by the private inspectors.
“When you see the video of it actually being done and the horse is actually screaming, I mean, what does that say?” Presley said. “I cannot get the vision out of my head.”
After learning of the abuse being conducted towards the breed, Presley ended her 30 year long tradition of awarding the Graceland Challenge Trophy at the national premiere horse walking competition, a tradition beginning in 1983.
“When I heard about this it was just unfathomable to me that Tennessee walking horses were in these shows with this kind of abuse and torture. I mean, I can’t imagine Elvis ever, ever,” she trailed off. “We were just very naive. We loved the ride of the horse.”
Presley has since become one of the most outspoken defender of Tennessee walking horses. While she says she’s “certainly not a politician,” she believes it has escalated into an issue beyond just horses.