Things That Frighten Us: High-diving horses are returning to Atlantic City
Sure, I loved Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, but does the idea of horses plunging into water-tanks in real life make anyone else weak in the knees?
From HN contributor Lorraine Jackson:
Press of Atlantic City is reporting today that as part of a $20 million Tourism District Master Plan to renovate the Steel Pier, they will be bringing back one of the great horse acts of the early 20th century: high-diving Horses.
Made iconic in the 1991 Disney Movie Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Diving Horses was a major death-defying attraction, starting in 1905 and ending in 1978. Lorena Carver, Sonora Webster Carver, and Arnette French were stars of the Dr. W.F. Carver Act, which consisted of riding horses off a 45 foot drop into a pool below, with as many as two to four shows a day. While the diving act was cause for many broken bones and even a case of blindness among the diving girls, according to Lorena, “All the girl had to do is look pretty and not fear height or water…the horse knows what to do. He’ll take care of you.”
In the Carver’s tenure as the high diving act, they claimed to have often had A.S.P.C.A. officials snooping around looking for mistreatment or injury of the horses. Sonora said that “Those horses lived like Riley. In all the years of the act, there was never a horse that was injured in the show.” While the Carvers show on the Steel Pier remained untainted by abuse, other similar acts were accused of using prods and other devices to make the horses jump, and eventually the show altogether was discontinued.
Now, with the return of the Diving Horse Act to Atlantic City, there will undoubtedly be questions over whether the practice is fit for audiences and horses alike, but city officials are determined to explore the rebirth of one the attractions that made Steel Pier famous. If fully approved, shows will begin as early as this summer.
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