Winter Scene ~ Back Home, Again

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Graceland To Be Home For Rescued Horses Adopted By Priscilla Presley

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Rescued Horse, Max

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To keep the spirit alive as it was in Elvis’ time, there will always be horses at Graceland.

Max arrived at the estate Jan. 10 — two days after what would have been Elvis Presley’s 73rd birthday.

He will never be able to thank Priscilla Presley for adopting him and giving him a new home.  She also adopted his brother, Merlin, who will arrive at Graceland in the spring.

Max will never be able to thank Carol-Terese Naser of Palermo, Maine for saving his life.

Then again, Max is a 3-year-old bay horse.

It all began like this:

Max and his brother, Merlin, a magnificent chocolate-colored creature, were scheduled to be slaughtered — along with four other horses in their family in Quebec — last summer.

Naser, who has had horses of her own since she was a child, stepped into action and rescued all six horses with just days to spare.

“If we hadn’t done this when we did, they’d all be long gone,” said Naser.

Naser and her friend Cathy Cleaveland found out soon enough that it wasn’t easy — or cheap — to care for six horses.  So they decided to start fundraising.

“We sent T-shirts to celebrities we knew were passionate about animals,” Cleaveland said. “We requested they autograph the shirt, then send it back. We were going to auction them.”

Country crooner Alan Jackson, former Catwoman Julie Newmar and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” host Ty Pennington, among others, signed and sent back the shirts for auction, Naser said.

And then came a phone call  from Priscilla Presley that would change Max’s and Merlin’s lives.

An animal lover, Presley told the women she wanted to adopt Max and Merlin to give them a permanent home at Graceland, the nearly 14-acre spread, 23-room mansion in Memphis that Elvis shared with Priscilla and their daughter.

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Graceland

“I have always had a bond with horses,” Presley said in a telephone interview. “Elvis gave me my very first horse. It was the horses that made Graceland home to us.”

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Presley, who called herself “the kid who had to rescue all the animals” growing up, said that when she received the T-shirt from Naser and Cleaveland, the story of the near-slaughter struck her.

“It haunted me,” Presley said. “I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to do that.”

Presley, who called Naser’s saving act “an unbelievable labor of love,” said it is her desire to educate people about horse slaughter, including spreading the word to permanently ban the practice.

“Max and Merlin are a symbol of horses who escaped the slaughter,” she said.

They will live out their lives at Graceland for all to know the value of horses in our lives.

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Elvis Presley bought his first horses in 1966.  The first horses to come to Graceland were Christmas gifts for Priscilla and some of Elvis’ friends. They were Tennessee Walkers.

Elvis soon bought more horses – and then trucks and trailers – for his friends and bodyguards.

Priscilla remembers playfully, “It didn’t matter if you wanted one or not, you were getting a horse!”

The stable at Graceland was called “House of the Rising Sun” after Elvis’ own horse, a Quarter horse.

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Elvis on Rising Sun

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Ebony’s Double ~ Tenneessee Walker
Priscilla Presley’s Horse

Elvis sought solace in his land and his horses. Priscilla recalls, “In the morning right after breakfast he was out riding.”

The year 2007 marked the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.  The sound of hoofbeats has never faded from his home.

Graceland now includes the beauty of two rescued horses.

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News Link: 

Rancher On Horseback Finishes Ride Across America

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Bill Inman atop his horse Blackie
as riders in Hendersonville, N.C. welcome him

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January 13, 2008

 An Oregon rancher who set off on a cross-country horseback ride seven months ago in search of what’s good in America dismounted Sunday, feeling encouraged by the spirit and stories of the people he met.

Bill Inman began his journey June 2 because he felt distress over how the country was being portrayed in news coverage and on TV shows. He rode his 16-year-old thoroughbred-quarter horse Blackie.

His wife, Brenda, and a four-person support crew joined him on the trip through eight states.

Along the way, Inman collected stories of hardworking, honest everyday people in rural America.

His cross cross-country trek was dubbedUncovering America by Horseback, a website that noted his experiences, including videos.

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The scenery in America is changing and I’m really proud we took snapshots at slow motion of this time period because 20 years from now it will be different,” he said.

Inman talks about the retired rancher in Idaho who he considers “a true image of America with his honesty and hospitality,” or people he’s met working multiple jobs to make ends meet, or another Idaho rancher e-mailing the progress of the journey to his son in Iraq.

“There is nothing like riding across the nation to learn about the people of this country,” he said.

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Among the people he met was a Wyoming deputy sheriff who drove 25 miles through a thunderstorm to bring dinner to him and his wife, and all 17 people of a Colorado town who came out to see him ride off.

An Idaho state trooper paid him $20 for the chance to sit on top of Blackie, he said.

“Sometimes, I was more intrigued by the stories they were telling than the stories I was telling,” Inman said.

Inman finished his trip riding into the southwestern North Carolina town under overcast skies. A crowd of more than 100 people greeted Inman as he ended the journey.

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Crossing the plains of Kansas

“I don’t know if that’s really sunk in yet. It may take me two or three days to think it’s over,” Inman said in a telephone interview.

Inman ticked off a list of what’s been bad about the trip — temperatures ranging from 108 degrees to freezing, pesky insects, water shortages, crossing mountains and desert and riding in a lightning storm. People aren’t on the list.

“I haven’t run into any bad people,” he said.

Inman bought Blackie in 2001. The two have clearly bonded.

“I know his capabilities and I know his flaws and I think he can say the same thing for me,” he said.  “Now if you think we’re constantly kissing buddies, I don’t think so.

Do I brag about him a lot? Yeah.”

~~~

Re-written from news sources:

Winter Scene: Laughing All The Way

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Winter Scene: Over The Fields We Go

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Spare The Horses

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Christine Hajek, founder of Gentle Giants
Draft Horse Rescue, gets a nuzzle from Jonas.

~~~

Christine Hajek fell in love with her first draft horse when she met Elijah, a Belgian gelding, at an auction in August 2001 and brought him home.

But Hajek, who grew up on a horse-breeding farm, had been mesmerized by the huge horses raised for plowing and farm labor ever since she rode one years earlier.

“I loved the gait, I loved the size and I loved the feel,” said Hajek, 34, who is an Anne Arundel County firefighter. “They’re so broad across the back that they give you a real sense of security. They move slowly. Anything they do is kind of in slow motion.”

It was Elijah that gave her the idea to form Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, a nonprofit operation specifically tailored to draft horses — and turn a hobby into an obsession.

“He ended up being a perfect horse — totally flawless in every way,” she said.

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That one horse has turned into 21 at the 42-acre Woodbine farm in Mount Airy, Maryland where she lives with her husband, Jamie McIntosh.

Hajek estimates that she and her husband have rescued more than 60 draft horses since then — most of them within the past two years.

“They work hard, they’ve seen everything, so they’re not afraid of anything,” she said.

Once she brings horses home, she spends an average of two months with them before they are adopted.

“I might be sad for a couple days, and I might cry really hard when I drop them off,” she said. “But mostly, I’m happy for them.”

The horses she’s rescued are now scattered around the United States, with adoptees in California, New York, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, she said.

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Recently, Dick Dodson, 72, from Boyds, who recently took up riding again after a 20-year hiatus, visited Hajek’s farm to meet a horse named Texas that he’d seen on the Gentle Giants Web site.

“The attraction for the drafts is that they’re very calm, they’re sure-footed, and they don’t spook easily,” he said. “I want something that’s bomb-proof. I don’t want to get hurt on a horse.”

He was drawn to Texas because of the chocolate-colored Belgian’s background as a carriage horse that had done some plowing for an Amish farmer.

“I might ride that horse bareback,” Dodson said. “This horse has a very gentle disposition.”

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The Gentle Giants dog, Bug, hangs out at Tristan’s feet.

Not only can people adopt horses from Hajek; they can also ride. She caters mostly to adults and a few children of adults who ride there.

Saving draft horses is a passion that costs her money, she acknowledges. She only wishes she could save more.

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“I’m passionate about draft horses,” Hajek said. “The bigger the better.

I just want everyone to know how incredible they are.”

~~~

Link: Gentle Giants Rescue

Are There More Or Is This It?

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When It Comes To Raising Clydesdales … Age Doesn’t Matter

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 Norm Wilke is proud of his girls.

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“It’s a hobby,” said Norm, who is 75 years old.

He keeps the Clydesdale mares in a stable near his Bargain Barn warehouse in Shiloh, Missouri.

He has raised Clydesdales for the past 17 years. Two mares, “Ruby” and “Babe”, stay at the Bargain Barn.

“Dawn” grazes near his farmhouse off Illinois 161 in Belleville. All three are pregnant and should deliver their foals in early spring. Norm plans to keep these three foals.

“I’d like to raise a few babies again.”

Most are dark brown (bay) with black manes, a white blaze on the forehead and white feet.

“They call those white stockings,” said Norm who grew up in St. Libory and has been around horses all his life.

Norm was asked about the gentle giant draft horses, famed mascots of Anheuser-Busch.

“People from Anheuser-Busch came out to look at it. The width of the white blaze was just right and so were the length of the stockings.”

Being chosen is also referred to as “making the hitch.” The foal’s father is from a Clydesdale farm in Springfield.

Norm was asked how he started raising Clydesdales and how did he drive them.

“I’ve always liked horsin’ around. When I was about 60, I thought it was time for retirement, time to try something new.

I went to an auction and got my first team of draft horses in Columbia, Missouri. They were both females and easy to train.”

Norm uses reins to guide the horses. Usually three are in a line. The middle horse has to be adaptable, able to turn by side-stepping, “To be good, they have to be ground-stompers and pick up their feet and hold themselves up and look proud.”

He drives them in local parades, most recently Mascoutah’s homecoming.

The reporter continued to ask Norm about his his pride and joy … his Clydesdales.

Do you have a favorite horse?
“”Dawn” had a foal this spring that qualified to make the team of Clydesdales at Anheuser-Busch.”

How much do they eat?
“They each eat a gallon and a half of grain a day and go through two-thirds of a bale of hay a day,” said Norm. “I have to keep the trough full because they can drink three to four gallons at a time.”

How big are Clydesdales at birth and how long do they usually live?
“Babies are about 3 feet tall at birth and weigh 125 pounds. Adult Clydesdales are 6 feet tall at the shoulder and usually weigh between 1,600 and 2,200 pounds. Most Clydesdales live to 20-25 years of age.

“Most of the babies are born late at night. I stay up with them, but if I leave for awhile, that’s usually when they have them.”

When can people visit the horses?
 “They can come by anytime we’re open,” said Norm. Sometimes people come by after we’re closed but the horses are still out.” Visitors may pet them but are not allowed to feed them.

Norm is proud to still be enjoying the Clydesdales.
He plans to continue, regardless of his age.

Happy Thanksgiving To All

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Fort Sam Houston’s Caisson Section Pays Tribute to Fallen Soldiers & Veterans

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 A horse-drawn caisson slowly rolls toward a burial site
at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery

It could be an old man who lived a full life. It could be a young man who died too soon.

Better not to know, they say. Do your job, do your best to pay tribute to them.

“This husband, this son has earned the right to have a caisson funeral,” says Sgt. Jason Baldwin.

“We get to take them to their final rest.”

Baldwin was riding Hall, a 22-year-old veteran of these ceremonies, a horse that knew without being told the route through the painful beauty of Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, with its bright white headstones, to the burial site where the soldier’s family waited.

Fort Sam Houston’s is the only full-time caisson section in the country other than the illustrious Old Guard at Ft. Myer at Arlington Cemetery.

It doesn’t share the same high profile, but it has the same charge: to convey departed soldiers to their final resting place in a rite with deep roots in military tradition.

In this age of modern warfare, there is something comforting in the fact that the Army still has a need for horses.

On this day, when the hearse arrived, the men straightened up in their saddles, their backs erect and their faces grave. The horses shifted their feet and arched their necks, sensing their job was about to begin.

Baldwin trotted out on Hall and saluted as he passed the hearse, then turned to face the caisson.

A six-man military honor guard removed the flag-covered casket from the hearse, gently carried it to the caisson and secured it to its bed.

Baldwin swung Hall around and began to walk. The caisson moved forward.

There was a rhythmic clop-clop-clop of horses’ hooves, jangling of the harness chains and creaking of wheels as the caisson section made its steady, solemn progress.

When the group arrived at the burial spot, the honor guard removed the casket and carried it to the bier (elevated platform).

The caisson moved on. There would be taps and gunfire and a eulogy, but the men on the horses wouldn’t be there for it. Their job was done.

If there is one thing the soldiers of the Fort Sam Houston caisson section are sure of, it’s that what they do has a place in today’s world.

“This is not a regular job, this means something to me. I’ve been to Iraq, I know what happens,” Baldwin says. “I love being able to give honor to those who have fallen or have returned and done their part.”

The Army itself even changed the lyrics of its official song from the original “And the caissons go rolling along” to “And the Army goes rolling along.”

But at Fort Sam Houston, nine soldiers, eight horses and a stable master make sure that a caisson does still roll — for those who served their country and those who paid the ultimate price doing so.