The Great Steel Pier Horse Diving Revival 86’d

DAILY NEWS: The owners of Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, facing pressure from animal-rights groups, have scrapped a plan to bring back the diving-horse act that made the boardwalk venue famous for decades. “Instead of trying to rekindle the past, we’re going to preserve history and nostalgia in a new way,” said Anthony Catanoso, Steel Pier’s president. Diving horses began plunging off Steel Pier platforms into pools in the 1920s. Animal-rights groups put an end to the show in the 1970s and again in 1993, when Catanoso briefly brought the horses back. MORE

ASSOCIATED PRESS: He had envisioned the Diving Horse as the centerpiece of a refurbished Steel Pier, part of an overall makeover of the gambling resort being planned by local and state officials. He downplayed the significance of public opposition in the latest decision to pull the plug on the Diving Horse but acknowledged that the protests did take their toll. “That negativity — we didn’t want that to interfere with the positive things we’re trying to do,’’ he said. MORE

WIKIPEDIA: William “Doc” Carver “invented” the idea of 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 partner, Al Floyd Carver constructed the ramp and tower and his rider 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 very popular venue, Steel Pier. There, Sonora, Al and Lorena continued the show following his death. In 1931, Sonora Webster Carver and her horse “Red Lips” lost their balance on the platform. Sonora survived the fall, but was blinded (caused by detached retinas in both eyes). She continued horse-diving while blind. MORE

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