Horse diving was a spectacle where trained horses would dive from high platforms into pools of water. Guided by riders, the horses leaped from platforms and landed in pools located below. The performances drew crowds of spectators, especially at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, where it became a popular attraction.
The origins of horse diving
Horse diving involved training horses to dive from 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 meters) platforms. Trained riders guided the horses, ensuring their safety during the descent and upon entering the water.
Horse diving traces its roots back to the late 19th century. That’s when William “Doc” Carver, a former Wild West performer, had a vision of combining horsemanship with daring dives. Carver was instrumental in training horses to perform the dives and developing the techniques necessary to ensure their safety. He worked tirelessly to refine the training process and establish a rapport between horses and riders.
The Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey, became synonymous with horse diving. The iconic amusement pier offered a perfect stage for the daring spectacle.
A daring feat
The performances showcased not only the bravery of the animals but also the bond between the horses and their riders.
To ensure the safety of the horses, the pools were carefully designed with deep water and sufficient space for the horses to land safely. The performers, including the riders, were highly trained and dedicated individuals who understood the intricacies of the sport. While accidents and injuries did occur, the community took measures to prioritize the well-being of the animals and performers.
As times changed and public perception evolved, concerns about animal welfare emerged. The popularity of horse diving gradually declined throughout the 20th century, and the last performance took place in the 1970s. Although no longer a prominent attraction, it left a lasting legacy, reminding us of the audacity and daring spirit that characterized a bygone era of entertainment.
Source: “Remembering When Horse Diving Was an Actual Thing” — Atlas Obscura