Big Joe revisits the Atlantic City diving horse
There’s a new book out called “The Last Diving Horse in America” by Cynthia Branigan, which revisits the famous Steel Pier diving horse act that was a huge boardwalk act that drew thousands to watch the incredible feat.
I haven’t read the book but remember the act well. I was a kid when I saw the horse jump from a 40 foot platform with a diminutive lady rider into a pool of water that was 10 feet deep.
I couldn’t believe it. It was exciting yet disturbing. I remember thinking how much does that horse want to do that? Of course people protested due to concerns of animal cruelty to the horse towards the end of the act.
The act lasted 50 years and as a result of the protest, the last diving horse named Gamal was put up on the auction block in May of 1980.
Cynthia Branigan, the author, rescued Gamal and provided a safe haven for the horse to run and graze in pastures and get the attention he deserved.
The history of horse diving goes back to the 1800s when Wild West showman William “Doc” Carver partnered up with Buffalo Bill Cody in 1883 and after one season Doc Carver and Buffalo Bill separated and Doc Carver went on to create his own Wild West show as did Buffalo Bill.
It was in 1894 when Doc Carver invented the act of horse diving from a high platform into a pool of water. It was the talk of every town where he showcased his act.
He ran the horse diving act right up to his death in 1927 when Doc’s son Al Carver and his wife took over the act and moved it to Steel Pier in Atlantic City.
Horse diving was a huge tourist attraction for 50 years, the latter years under animal cruelty protests as you can imagine.
The horse diving act is a sign of how far we’ve come in both entertainment and the protection of animals. For more information on the book “The Last Diving Horse in America” by Cynthia Branigan you can click the link .
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.
Why you shouldn't visit the Jersey Shore this summer