Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Steel Pier Diving Horse

There are plenty of shows in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

On any given night, you can catch an over the hill pop star, a smarmy magician or a comedian (with or with out a puppet.) Plus, you can always catch the 'old lady blowing her Social Security check in a slot machine.' But, you CANNOT watch a horse plunge 40 feet into the ocean.

In 1924 Dr. W. F. Carver, a noted plainsman and world champion rifle shooter, was crossing a rickety bridge Suddenly the bridge collapsed and he and the horse plunged 40 feet, and swam to safety.
Excited by the financial prospects of this, he tried it again and again. Soon horses were jumping off the steel pier.

Originally opened in 1898, the Steel Pier has featured some of the biggest names in show business. Big names like Guy Lombardo, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Bob Hope, Amos 'n Andy, and Frank Sinatra all played on the Steel Pier.

For over 50 years horses continued to jump making the steel pier one of the premier attractions on the east coast. I can only assume shoving bamboo under a Clydesdale’s hooves and putting Tabasco sauce in a Shetland pony's feed were the other popular attractions.

I am kidding. Actually, the dive DID NOT harm the horse or the rider, who rode bareback. In fact, many veterinarian’s say that horses enjoy jumping into water, and while they don't leap 40 feet off a pier in the wild, the stunt wasn't completely against their nature.

Still, pressure from animal rights groups (coupled with dwindling public interest) caused an end to the diving forever.

The entire Steel Pier closed in 1976, and remained closed for more than two decades. In 1993, the pier was renovated to coincide with the opening of Trump's Taj Mahal Casino Hotel.

Today the pier is full of carnival style rides and amusements. BUT NO DIVING HORSES. For that you will have to drive 6 hours for Magic Forrest Park!

Magic Forrest Park is a small amusement park in Lake George, New York with over 25 rides. Their main draw, however is
Lightning the Diving Horse.

Billed as the ONLY diving horse in America, Lightning dives daily into his own private pool. Unlike the Steel Pier diving horse he dives a mere 9 feet, but he does it RIDER-LESS.

The lack of a rider, Magic Forrest Park points out, is proof that Lightning chooses to dive into the pool. Other shows have been known to prod their horses into performing, but not Magic Forrest Park. They say Lightning loves the water and seems to enjoy diving.

Still, like the Steel Pier, animal rights protests have been mounted. These protests come from a very strange group of people: Mary Tyler Moore, Chevy Chase and Rue McClanahan. Doesn't that sound like a really bad sitcom?

STOP THE HORSE SHOW (the sitcom)
Rue sits on the couch knitting. Mary enters.

MARY: What are you knitting?

RUE: A 'Save the Horse blanket.'

MARY: But you knitted 'Save the hoes.'

RUE: Oh shoot!

Chevy enters in a hurry.

CHEVY: Did someone say there are hoes in here?

Chevy then falls down, Mary and Rue laugh.

Magic Forrest Park has sent the three actors veterinarian reports on Lightning and an invitation to see at the show in person. So far, they have declined. So, if you are wondering why Chevy, Mary and Rue don't work much anymore, it's simple, they are saving the world from diving horses.

Interestingly, the 1991 Disney film Wild Heart's Can't Be Broken is about a diving horse and a little girl. Gabrielle Anwar plays the kid who joins the circus and rides the horse 40 feet down into the water. The American Humane Association monitored the stunt horse during his jumps photographed for the film and found nothing inhumane about them.

Too bad they didn't check his feed for Tabasco.


  1. Anonymous9/15/2004

    I saw Wild Heart's Can't Be Broken, it is a sweet film.


  3. I once saw a quadrapalegic (sp?) playing Amazing Grace on a synthesizer (I was careful not to use the word organ) with her tongue.