Diving horse

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The diving horse at the Hanlan's Point Amusement Park, Toronto, Canada, around 1907
A diving horse in Toronto
External video
Diving Horses
A 1923 video record of a horse diving from a from a 60ft platform at the USA.)
A mid-1960s 8mm film of a horse diving from a from a platform.

A diving horse is an attraction that was popular in the mid-1880s,[1] in which a horse would dive into a pool of water, sometimes from as high as 60 feet.[2]


William "Doc" Carver "invented" the idea of horse diving exhibitions. Allegedly, in 1881 Carver was crossing a bridge over Platte River (Nebraska) which partially collapsed. His horse fell/dived into the waters below, inspiring Carver to develop the diving horse act. Carver trained various animals and went on tour. His partner, Al Floyd Carver, constructed the ramp and tower and his rider Lorena Carver was the first rider. Sonora Webster joined the show in 1924. She later married Al Floyd Carver. The show became a permanent fixture at Atlantic City, New Jersey's very popular venue, Steel Pier. There, Sonora, Al and Lorena continued the show following his death.

In 1931, Sonora and her horse "Red Lips" lost their balance on the platform. Sonora survived the fall, but was blinded (caused by detached retinas in both eyes). She continued horse-diving while blind. In 1991, the film Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken based on Webster's life and her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses was released.[3]

Animal welfare[edit]

The shows received very strong criticisms of animal welfare abuses, which contributed to the decline of its popularity after World War II.[1] The horses sometimes dove four times a day, seven days a week.[2] There were allegations of using prods, electrical jolts, and trap doors to get unwilling horses to dive.[4] An attempt in 2012 to revive the shows at Steel Pier was halted when animal welfare advocates petitioned the owners not to hold the shows. The president of the Humane Society of the United States stated: "This is a merciful end to a colossally stupid idea."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Great Carver Show, Jumper, Diving Horse, and Sonora Webster the Horse Jumper
  2. ^ a b Dedicated to The Diving Horses
  3. ^ Kent, Bill (4 May 1997). "The Horse Was in Charge". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Rex the Diving Horse, Lake George, New York
  5. ^ Goldberg, Barbara (16 February 2012). "Atlantic City high-diving horses revival scrapped after protests". Reuters. Retrieved 20 March 2013.