If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d definitely recommend it. It follows the life of rock and roll icon, singer and actor Elvis Presley. What makes the film unique is that the story is told from the perspective of his long-time manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who was played by veteran actor Tom Hanks.
Shoeing for Elvis
Before we go any further, I’ve got to admit I’m a sucker for anything I can relate to because of a personal interest on my part. That’s certainly the case with what I’m writing here about the Elvis movie and shoeing horses.
Back in the July/August 1995 issue of American Farriers Journal, I wrote a 7-page article (“Shoeing for Elvis”) on Lim Couch, who was still shoeing the half dozen horses and ponies housed at Graceland. This was 18 years after the 1977 death of Elvis.
As Lim explained, there were six horses and ponies at Graceland when Elvis died and the intent was to keep Graceland the same as it was when the King of Rock and Roll died.
The afternoon part of my article is reprinted here so you can soak up all the history between Elvis, Lim Couch and the Graceland horses.
For younger folks who didn’t know Couch, he was a long-time Hernando, Miss., shoer who spent more than 30 years shoeing for Elvis. Lim also ran the MidSouth Horseshoeing Academy for a number of years and he and his wife, Mary Ann, operated the MidSouth Farrier Supplies business. He also served as president of the American Farrier’s Association and was inducted into the International Horseshoeing Hall of Fame in 2005 before passing away at age 75 in 2014.
While it’s been more than 25 years since I spent that afternoon with Lim at Graceland, I remember a few personal stories he told me about shoeing horses for Elvis.
The Early Days at Graceland
In 1957, Elvis purchased Graceland, which included the barn behind the mansion. Like the house, the barn had been built in 1939. Graceland was originally a cattle farm, and the barn had air conditioning before the mansion did to keep the previous owner’s prize bulls cool.
When Elvis moved in, he kept a few horses and donkeys in the barn. But he became a serious horse owner in 1966. That Christmas, Elvis purchased a Quarter Horse named Domino for Pricilla, his soon-to-be wife.
With horses soon becoming his favorite hobby, it wasn’t long before the barn was full of horses.
The barn still features touches of Elvis, as his handwriting can be seen on the walls, where he labeled each horse’s name and equipment. Painters continue to work around the names and notes that Elvis wrote on the walls many years ago.
The Presley estate today is worth $400-500 million, with around $10 million of income coming annually from Graceland.
Elvis may have left the mansion, but his presence is still found in the horse barn.
On Call 24 Hours a Day
Lim’s sister lived next door to Elvis’ parents. One day, Lim mentioned to the singer’s dad, Vernon, that he would love to shoe horses for Elvis. Nothing came from that conversation for many months until one day the Presley family asked Lim to take over the Graceland shoeing work.
Elvis was a night owl since he would be mobbed by fans whenever he went out during the daylight hours. Lim told me there were a number of times when his phone would ring at 2 a.m. and it would be Elvis talking on the other end of the line. The Rock ’n Roll King would ask Lim to get dressed so they could go out in the middle of the night and look at some horses Elvis was interested in buying.
Lim also remembered the numerous times Elvis would walk down to the small barn at the 14-acre Graceland estate as he dealt with the pressures of music and business. Elvis would sit on a turned-over feed bucket for 3 or 4 hours talking horses, music and life in general while watching Lim trim and shoe the Graceland horses. At other times, they would play cards in the barn’s tack room.
The Egg-Bar Shoe
Later on, Alice Musser of our American Farriers Journal advertising staff got me a special Christmas gift from Lim. An egg-bar shoe that had been worn by a pony that had been kept for a number of years at Graceland. It hangs on my office wall.
When Lim sent along this special shoe, he told Alice that he’d better never see this shoe for sale on eBay. That hasn’t been a problem, as this shoe has a special place in my collection that includes shoes from the Budweiser eight-horse Clydesdale hitch and the Arlington National Cemetery hitch that pulled the caisson through downtown Washington, D.C., during the funeral procession for former President Ronald Reagan.
A few years later, I was visiting with Lim at the annual AFA convention and I told him about the Christmas cards I was getting from Graceland. He told me those Graceland Christmas cards sell on eBay for as much as $35 to Elvis enthusiasts. Those cards from Graceland still sit somewhere in one of our closets, but I’ve never had any intention of offering them for sale.
So those are a few of the memories I recall from spending an exciting afternoon on a sunny spring day with the horses and ponies at Graceland.
- Shoeing for Elvis: Mississippi farrier Lim Couch spent nearly 30 years shoeing horses for the King of Rock ‘n Roll
- All the King’s Horses: Tennessee farrier up to the challenge for Graceland’s toughest case.
- “Great Eight” Stand Tall for Horseshoeing, Equine Vet Halls of Fame: Diverse group of farriers and equine vets proudly inducted as new members for the “Class of 2005” Horseshoeing, Equine Veterinarian Halls of Fame.
- Remembering Lim Couch: Friends and colleagues recall how the Hall of Fame farrier touched their lives.