Diving Horse History
The concept of diving horses for entertainment is credited toWilliam “Doc” Carver. While riding over a Nebraska bridge in 1881 as it partially collapsed, the horse dove into the water. His experience inspired the idea.
The heyday of diving horses was in the 1920s to 1950s, although the act continued until 1978. The diving horse act was brought back for a very brief stint in 1993 but was quickly stopped in reaction to the objections of animal advocates.
The best known diver was a young woman named Sonora Webster Carver. She was married to Doc Carver’s son, Al. Her life was described in her 1961 book “A Girl and Five Brave Horses,” from which Disney made the movie “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” in 1991. Carver was blinded in a dive at the age of 27 and continued diving for 11 years after her accident. She lived to the ripe old age of 99.
Nostalgia is a powerful feel-good marketing tool. But shouldn’t we realize and admit that not everything from the past deserves to be revived? Animal welfare was a concept not often considered even fifty years ago. Why don’t we leave diving horses in the past? Sure, show the history of it in the planned museum, but don’t make those horses climb up a narrow ramp and then jump 40 feet into a 12 foot pool. That seems like cruelty to me.
If a person wants to make that dive, that is up to them. Humans have the option of saying yes or no. Watching those horses walk the narrow plank up to the top looks like the creature is being led to slaughter. They can’t change their mind and get back down. The only option they have once they arrive at the top is to jump. And yes, some seem to do it willingly but many don’t. So a trap door is lowered forcing the horse to plunge into the water below.
21st Century Animal Advocacy
Animal advocates are at it again. Jennifer Mishler has spearheaded an effort to prevent the diving horse act from returning to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. Mishler told me in an email, “I was surprised and appalled to learn that Steel Pier president Anthony Catanoso plans to bring back this cruel show after it has been gone for years. It is simply putting profit over compassion for living beings.”
Mishler also told me “…and we are planning peaceful demonstrations if they do not respond.” A Facebook page also garnered attention.
Steel Pier Associates has not returned my phone calls, but they did ask the public to post opinions about bringing the diving horse act back to Atlantic City. The comments on this site against bringing back a diving horse act led Catanoso to change his plans. NBC News reported Steel Pier President Anthony Catanoso announced Tuesday, February 14 in response to the reaction of animal advocates’ protests he will not bring back the diving horse act to the pier.
Curiously, the many comments logged against the diving horse act no longer appear on the Facebook site.
A big thank you to the over 1,200 people who signed the petition against horse diving!
Read more: animal cruelty, animal rights, animal welfare, animals, Anthony Catanoso, Atlantic City, diving horse act, diving horses, horse, horses, Sonora Webster Carver, Steel Pier, Steel Pier Associates, success story
Photo credit: via flickr, Demetrios Lyras
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