The diving horses performed at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier in the 1920s and 1930s. The horse would jump into a tank of water, typically with a young woman riding on its back.
Some dove with their front legs straight out, while others tucked up their legs as if they were going over a jump. One horse would twist in the air and land on his side, making it dangerous for his rider.
‘The riders (all women) would suffer one or two broken bones a year. Most of the injuries came from getting out of the pool of paddling hooves. They made it look easy, but it wasn’t. Years ago a rider by the name of Sonora Carver (in the late 1920’s) went blind from a bad impact with the water. The jump was sixty feet at that time, but was then lowered to forty.
‘Another horse, I think his name was Patches, drew quite an audience. After making so many jumps he no longer waited for his rider. He would charge up the ramp to the tower and take a running jump off the diving board, leaving the rider behind. A couple of the girls tried to leap on him as he flew by, only to be left sailing through the air mount-less.