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Diving horse show set to return to Atlantic City this summer

Animal welfare groups have spoken out against the plan to bring back the act, which was popular in the early 20th century.


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Diving horse
A diving horse performs in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century. Photo: Archives of Ontario via Wikipedia.
UPDATE 2/14/12: The owners of the Steel Pier have announced that they will not be reviving the diving horse act. Read more here.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Many horse lovers have seen the Disney film Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, which is loosely based on the story of a young woman who loses her eyesight while starring in a horse diving show in the 1930s. What most horse lovers of today have not seen is an actual diving horse show. The act fell out of favor in the mid-20th century.

As part of a revitalization effort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the owners of the city’s historic Steel Pier have announced that they will bring back the horse diving show by Memorial Day of this year.

In the diving horse show, a horse jumps off of a tower that is approximately 40 feet high. In some versions of the act, a rider climbs on to the horse at the top of the tower and rides the horse as it plummets into the 12-foot pool below. In other versions of the act, the horse dives solo.

The diving horses were a part of the Steel Pier from the 1920s through the 1970s. A short-lived attempt to bring the show back in the early 1990s—not long after Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken was released—failed due to outcry from animal welfare organizations and concerned citizens.

In an interview with a Philadelphia NBC affiliate, Steel Pier President Anthony Catanoso rejected claims of animal cruelty.

"Nobody can show us any documentation that the diving horse act here on Steel Pier ever harmed an animal, ever produced any kind of cruelty or abuse. We would not do that."

Nancy Beall, president of the Atlantic County SPCA, thoroughly disagrees. "I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s cruelty to animals," said Beall. "It certainly can’t be safe for the animal."

The renovation of the Steel Pier is working in conjunction with Atlantic City’s Tourism District plan to rebrand the notorious gambling town as a more diverse vacation destination. Whether or not visitors will view diving horses as wholesome entertainment remains to be seen.

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Diving horse show set to return to Atlantic City this summer

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Dennis bennaman    Rockville, MD

7/16/2014 10:03:13 AM

I feel the diving horse act is and always will be the great memory of Atlantic City. The steel pier was the center attraction of Atlantic City. Now, people take their hard earned money and throw it away on the sickness of gambling. My family and me lost 40 dollars in slot machines, where as others are spending $400 dollars , just to try to win any possible amount. My point is, gambling infected the entire city . The great attractions are gone because of gambling. Bring back the shows at the steel pier like the bands from the past who are still together. The diving bell was wild, the steel pier divers act, the clowns, and most of all, the high diving horse. As mr. Anthony caruso said, the horses were never forced, mistreated, or harmed during the acts. The casinos are scary. You might get robbed while in there. Back in 1974 my mom was robbed of $350.00 while my father was playing a quarter slot machine. The camera's above did not see this happen, and the thieves got away. When we contacted security, they attempted to find them, but no luck. The casinos are robbing people who have gambling sickness. The people who robbed my mother, I feel, they worked for the casino. Anyway, the memories I have were playing the skee ball games and boardwalk stores . The steel pier was the best of the whole vacation. My father took us kids to Atlantic city for the attractions as well as the entertainment. To have fun was the best, but not to leave the city discussed because of casino thieves. We as kids, myself and two older brothers enjoyed the ocean, the rides, the arcades to win prizes, and most of all, THE STEEL PIER. Please write this story for others to read. Bring back the steel pier as it use to be. Give people the fun back that the city once provided. I was told that Gino's will be back soon. Thanks. Dennis and Jonathan Bennaman. P.s . To Anthony, sir, you own the steel pier please eliminate the crazy sling shot ride. This ride should be erased from the pier before the people who are stupid enough to get on it are erased into the ocean. Bring back the diving horse, this act is more exciting then watching people being shot into the sky at 60 80 or 100 miles an hour . The skyride at central pier was even more safe. The helicopter rides are cool, but to expensive. $60.00 is quite steep for one person. $30.00 IS BETTER.

kelly    raleigh, NC

1/18/2013 8:52:48 AM

i think its a wonderful idea. it is not cruel to the animals they are not getting hurt just by jumping into water. it was only the riders taking the risk. i would def be a diving girl. where can i apply?

Katherine    Los Angeles, CA

2/14/2012 1:32:06 AM

It is absolutely disgusting to hear about hores being thrown into the water from a platform, just to entertain humans! A horse would never do this voluntarily and has sadly no choice, similar to horses let to the slaughterhouse. This should never be authorized, not with horses or any other animals!

J Zimmer    Galloway, NJ

2/11/2012 5:32:32 AM

Horse owners and lovers please make your voices heard about this act. Many are saying horses not hurt! But, your voices will have impact. Please do it now. Join the 14,000 who have signed the petition Debi mentioned

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