Diving horse

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

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


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 son, Al Floyd Carver, constructed the ramp and tower and 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 due to detached retinas in both eyes as a result of keeping her eyes open. She continued horse-diving while blind. A film based on her life, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, was released in 1991 and was based on her memoir A Girl and Five Brave Horses.[3]

In Lake George, New York, the Magic Forest theme park hosted a diving horse feature beginning in 1977, originally featuring a horse named Rex, later replaced by a gelding named Lightning. The manager stated, "There is no rider, no prods, no electrical jolts, and no trap doors."[4] The theme park was purchased in 2018[5] and re-opened as Lake George Expedition Park, without horse diving.

Animal welfareEdit

A horse-diving show was an in-residence act held at New Jersey's Steel Pier. Pressure from animal rights activists and declining demand led to the act being shuttered in the 1970s. Although there was a brief resumption of the act at the pier in 1993, it was again shut down amid opposition.[1][6] The horses sometimes dived four times a day, seven days a week.[2] 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."[7]

Loading of the pierEdit

Atlantic City's Steel Pier was also used to mount a measuring device (tide gauge) 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.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b The Great Carver Show, Jumper, Diving Horse, and Sonora Webster the Horse Jumper
  2. ^ a b Dedicated to The Diving Horses Archived April 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Kent, Bill (4 May 1997). "The Horse Was in Charge". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Rex (Later Lightning) the Diving Horse (Gone), Lake George, New York".
  5. ^ Lehman, Don. "Magic Forest sale in the works". Press-Republican. Archived from the original on 2021-10-15. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  6. ^ MacDonald, Brady (11 May 2019). "Steel Pier expansion moves forward minus diving horse act". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  7. ^ Goldberg, Barbara (16 February 2012). "Atlantic City high-diving horses revival scrapped after protests". Reuters. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  8. ^ "Apparent Sea Level Rise Due To Loading Of The Atlantic City Steep Pier By Spectators Viewing (1929-1978) Diving Horses". Archived January 21, 2015, at the Wayback Machine