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Diving Horse: Vintage photos from one of the most dangerous stunt shows ever performed, 1900-1970

 

Stunt shows featuring diving horses began in the 1880s and had been a wildly popular attraction for decades, despite the apparent cruelty to the animals and the danger it posed, ironically, to riders more than the subject of horses. it happens.

According to Texas Escape, horse racing was invented by a man named William "Doc" Carver. Carver had worked with Buffalo Bill Cody, but by the 1880s he was traveling the country with his Wild West shows. He was a champion sharpshooter, and his rifle skills were the highlights of the show, but after a while, he added a new gimmick: the diving horse.

Reportedly, in 1881 Carver was crossing a bridge over the Platette River (Nebraska) that partially collapsed. His horse fell/pigeoned in the water below, which inspired Carver to develop the Diving Horse Act.

Carver trained various animals and went on tour. His son, Al Floyd Carver, built the ramp and tower, and Lorena Carver was the first rider. Sonora Webster joined the show in 1924. She later married Al Floyd Carver.


One of William "Doc" Carver's most famous shows was "The Great Carver Show" which became a center of attraction at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The bizarre show involved a young woman with a horse with a swimsuit on her back, jumping from a high platform into a pool of water below.

The platform was placed 40 feet high. The diving horse ran on a carpeted ramp while the rider waited at the top, as the horse simultaneously ran for a dive.

When the horses landed in the tank, which was about 11 feet deep, they would descend until their hooves reached the bottom and then pushed to come back to the surface. Divers often trained with their horses for years, gradually moving towards higher and more challenging diving platforms.

Horses often throw their heads up to help with speed. The diving girl had to make sure she lays her head to one side or she comes to the surface with a bloody nose, black eyes, or broken cheekbones and collar bones.


Reportedly, in all the years of the show, there was not a single incident of injury to any of the high diving horses. However, the same cannot be said for the riders.

There were an average of two injuries a year, usually a broken bone or a bruise. Sonora Webster suffered the most serious injury in the show's history.

In 1931, during a dive, his horse sank into the tank, causing it to hit the face of the water first. Sonora failed to close her eyes quickly, resulting in detachment of the retina, rendering her sight impaired.

Despite being blind, Sonora continued acting for eleven more years. 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.

Protests from animal welfare activists put an end to horse diving shows in Atlantic City in the 1970s. Although there was a brief reinstatement of the Act at the ghat in 1993, it was closed again amid protests. Tea

Horses fly pigeons sometimes four times a day, seven days a week. An attempt to revive the show at Steel Pier was halted in 2012 when animal welfare advocates petitioned the owners not to hold the show.

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