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For nearly half a century, Atlantic City, in New Jersey, United States, was home to an attraction almost too fantastical to believe—an apparently fearless horse with a young woman on its back would leap off a tower some 40 feet high into a pool of water below. The stunt took place at Atlantic City's popular venue Steel Pier, where trained horses took the plunge up to four times a day and seven days a week.

The idea of the diving horse was invented in Texas by ''Doctor'' William Frank Carver, a 19th century sharpshooter who toured the wild west organizing shows with trained animals and shooting exhibitions. The story goes that in 1881, Carver was crossing a wooden bridge over Platte River in Nebraska when the bridge gave away, plunging him and his horse into the river. The diving horse franchise grew out this mishap, and over time it became Carver’s most favorite act on his traveling animal shows. His son, Al, helped train and take care of the horses, while his daughter, Lorena, is said to have been the first rider. By the time his future daughter-in-law, Sonora Webster, joined the show in 1923, Carver had two diving teams on the road, each performing in a different city.


The diving horse at the Hanlan's Point Amusement Park, Toronto, Canada.

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© Amusing Planet, 2017.


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