Atlantic City has always been full of attractions, serving as a playground for children and a home of entertainment for adults. There was everything. The parents knew that if they jumped in the car, there would be plenty to do once they hit the American playground.
A must-see attraction was the Atlantic City Dive Horse.
I was a child when I saw the horse jump from a 40 foot platform with a little rider into a 10 foot deep pool of water.
I could not believe it. It was exciting but disturbing. I remember thinking how badly did this horse want to do this? Of course, people protested due to horse cruelty concerns towards the end of the act.
The act lasted 50 years and following the protest, the last diving horse named Gamal was put up for auction in May 1980.
Cynthia Branigan, the author, rescued Gamal and provided a safe haven for the horse to run and graze in the pasture and get the attention it deserved.
The history of horseback diving dates back to the 1800s when Wild West showman William “Doc” Carver teamed up with Buffalo Bill Cody in 1883 and after one season Doc Carver and Buffalo Bill went their separate ways and Doc Carver went on to create his own Wild West show as Buffalo Bill did.
It was in 1894 that Doc Carver invented the act of diving from a raised platform into a pool of water. It was the topic of conversation in all the cities where he presented his number.
He ran the horse dive act until 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 has been a huge tourist attraction for 50 years, the last few years under animal cruelty protests, as you can imagine.
The act of horse diving is a sign of how far we’ve come in both entertainment and animal protection. For more information on the book “America’s Last Diving Horse” by Cynthia Branigan, you can click on the link.
The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. All opinions expressed are those of Big Joe.
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