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 60 ft platform at the USA.)
A mid-1960s 8mm film of two mules diving 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" 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's 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. A film based on her life (as recounted in her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses), Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, was released in 1991.[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]

Loading of the pier[edit]

Atlantic Ciy's Steel Pier was also used to mount a measuring device to monitor changes in the sea level of the Atlantic Ocean. However, changes in sea level at the Pier turned out to have been caused by the weight of the crowds gathered to watch the diving horses. Measurements from 1929 to 1978 indicated sea level rise – when the crowds were regular and caused the Pier to settle slightly in the soft, sandy bottom – except during the horse-jumping hiatus from 1945 to 1953 when the lack of regular crowds allowed the Pier to rise slightly.[6]

Modern examples[edit]

in Lake George, New York, the Magic Forest theme park hosts only remaining diving horse feature in New York state. It has been in operation since 1977, originally featuring a horse named Rex, later replaced by a gelding named Lightening. The manager states, "There is no rider, no prods, no electrical jolts, and no trap doors."[7] The horse jumps twice daily during a two-month season and has the rest of the year off.[8]

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. 
  6. ^ "Apparent Sea Level Rise Due To Loading Of The Atlantic City Steep Pier By Spectators Viewing (1929-1978) Diving Horses".
  7. ^ http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2174#sthash.sxwDv0MI.dpuf
  8. ^ http://www.thedivinghorse.com/about-horse-diving.html

External links[edit]