Most people know Elvis Presley as a musician and movie star. Friday afternoon, Priscilla Presley was at the Kentucky Horse Park to introduce Elvis the horseman.
"He never had as much fun as he had riding horses," said Presley, ex-wife of the King of Rock 'n' Roll and founder of Elvis Presley Enterprises. "He liked to ride up to the gates at Graceland when fans were there and show them tricks."
Presley was at the Horse Park as part of BreyerFest to introduce the model horse company's new Elvis Presley Collection. It includes Elvis, who died in 1977, riding his prized golden palomino, Rising Sun, as well as models of other horses now residing at the Graceland stables in Memphis. She also introduced an exhibit of Elvis' horse memorabilia, which will be on display in the lobby of the International Museum of the Horse through the end of the year.
Breyerfest, which highlights the company's hand-painted, molded-plastic models of horses that hobbyists collect, customize and show, continues through Sunday at the Horse Park.
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At a news conference attended by fans and local media, Priscilla Presley said Elvis' fascination with horses started when he bought her a black quarter horse named Domino. Seeing how much Priscilla loved her horse, Elvis was soon looking for a horse of his own, even knocking on the doors of farmhouses around Memphis at 2 or 3 in the morning.
"They were usually in their pajamas," Priscilla Presley said. "I don't think they heard anything after, 'Hello, I'm Elvis Presley.' "
Elvis eventually had two horses: Rising Sun and a Tennessee Walker named Bear. He also got horses for everyone in his entourage, "whether you liked horses or not and whether you were afraid of them or not, because if you were, he was going to break you of that."
Priscilla Presley recalled, "Elvis never did anything halfway," noting that once he learned that a horse needed to be walked to cool down after riding, "he never failed to walk his horse himself."
Stephanie Macejko, vice president of marketing and product development for Breyer Animal Creations, said that when Breyer officials learned about Elvis' love of horses, they reached out to Graceland to explore the possibility of developing a line.
"The Elvis Presley people were hugely enthusiastic and shared with us the whole family of horses that have and now live at Graceland," Macejko said.
Graceland is now home to numerous rescue horses, and Priscilla Presley said she was exploring setting up a foundation for rescue horses.
Fans were enthusiastic about Presley's presence at BreyerFest, forming a line that stretched around the welcome building..
Jim Bushong of Lexington got to complete a memento, having Priscilla Presley sign the same piece of Las Vegas hotel stationery that Elvis and some of his cohorts signed in 1971. Right behind him were the Nelsons from Boston.
"We waited three hours," said Janice Nelson, who traveled to BreyerFest with her daughter Cat, 11, and husband, Mark.
Mark Nelson was rewarded for his effort with a signed palomino and consent to give Priscilla Presley a kiss, and he got one in return.
"You have to be daring in this life," Nelson said. "How many guys can say they got to kiss Elvis' girl?"