Legend of the Diving Horse at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City

Atlantic City Diving Horse

Historic Diving Horse at the Steel Pier

The Diving Horse at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, NJ is one of the most memorable and amazing attractions every created and those lucky enough to experience it have memories that will last a lifetime.Once upon a time, long ago (1950’s – 70’s) and not so far away (The Steel Pier, at the Jersey Shore.) a well trained and apparently fearless and frisky, water-loving horse with no fear of heights would leap off a tower into a pool of water with a pretty young women in swimming attire on their back. Legend has it that the horse did not always wait for his or her rider, but would bolt up the ramp and off the tower and into the pool below, without so much as a please or thank you.  Can you imagine a dive of between 40 – 60 feet into a huge pool?

The Diving Horses gained “star” status after completing extensive training and, fared well until their age, or perhaps a sudden dislike for water, or, fear of heights, disqualified them. When no longer able or willing to perform their death defying act, they were sold or retired to owners who took great care of them on the farm.  The horses that were a part of the show were always treated like royalty by their fans and owners during and following a career as historic performer.

We were unable to uncover any information about injuries to any of the high diving horses that were in the world famous boardwalk show.  The only casualties of any kind associated with this acts was an occasional injury to a rider once or twice a year, usually a broken bone, the result of swimming around in a small pool with four thrashing hoofs attached to an animal much larger than they or, sustained while climbing out of the pool after the high dive.  Back in 1931, a rider named Sonora Carver lost her sight doing a dive, the impact with the water damaged her eyes.  She had been diving for seven years and while rding her horse “Red Lips”, she entered the water with her eyes opened.

Amazingly, Ms. Carver continued performing as a diver until 1942 a total of 18 years, 11 years blind. She later wrote a book about her experiences riding the diving horses at the Steel Pier and one important note is that she lived to be 99 years old. The book was made into a movie  “The sad, and happy, end of the horses” – sold at auction for any intended use, but the final two diving horses, Garmal and Shiloh, were sold to an animal protection fund. The Fund arranged a quiet retirement for them in pleasant surrounding and with caring responsible owners.

Contrary to Animal Rights Activist’s claims, the horses associated with the show were never injured, never mistreated in any way and brought nothing but happiness and excitement to those fans in attendance to see America’s Number One Boardwalk Attraction.

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11 comments for “Legend of the Diving Horse at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City

  1. Ruth Keck
    June 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I was very blessed to have the opportunity to work on the Steel Pier. One of my jobs was to feed the diving horses their lunch as a favor…..at the time, I sold tickets on the Diving Bell. In addition, I was a performer for Tony Grant’s Stars of Tomorrow. Later in life…..while being a lifeguard at JCC of Margate, Sonora and another diver use to come and swim in the pool….she and I always talked about the fun times on the pier.
    This segment on You Tube was fun to watch as it brought back many memories for me……seeing Shiloh’s name…..gave me the chills because he was one of the horses who was fed at lunchtime.

  2. Kim Dowell
    August 1, 2011 at 1:32 am

    I’m looking for more information the the diving horses. My great grandmother was a diver and a rider on the pier. I have some of her photos and other mementos, would love to talk to someone about it.

  3. Maureen Yorston
    August 6, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Family members have told me my Mother was a diver and horse rider on the pier. Her name was Martha and the years were probably in the 1930’s or 40’s. Anyone have any pictures or information relating to the above?

  4. Glenn Hughes
    September 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I am looking for anyone that can provide info on my uncle and aunt…Vernon Thornton, Alberta Hughes Thornton. They were connected with the diving horses.

  5. Bill Catanoso
    February 3, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    My partners and I are bringing back the diving horse to Atlantic City New Jersey and I would love to speak with anyone who was involved with the Diving Horse at the old Steel Pier…Bill

  6. CL Lynn
    February 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I am one of over 39,000 people who signed a petition against returning this activity to AC.

  7. February 15, 2012 at 3:29 am

    New information today stated the current owners of the Steel Pier will Not bring back the diving horse. Animal rights activists spoiled the plan. I’ve done lots of research on this topic and really believe the horses lived comfortable happy lives. There are many accounts of the diving horses bowing their heads regally and dancing prior to and following their dive. In addition to this, they were celebrities, so, they were taken care of very well. Ask anyone who worked at the Steel Pier, they know. Bottom line is, it’s not happening, although as an Atlantic City guy, I wish it would come back. We need special events like the diving horse to help rejuvenate our economy in A C.

  8. chip steiner
    March 2, 2012 at 3:24 am

    My grandparents Vernon Thornton, Alberta Hughes Thornton. They were connected with the diving horses.if anyone that may have any pictures or information relating to the show please let me know

  9. pamgagliano@cox.net
    June 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    My uncle Jonathan Gagliano AKA Mickey was a tumbler on the pier. He dressed as a clown and would pretend to fall off the pier in to the water. The group was known as the Aquamaniacs. Has anyone heard of them? It is very difficult to find any information about them. I’ve tried our local NY papers and the historical society of Atlantic City with no luck.

  10. Judy
    November 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Anything that will help promote Atlantic City is good for the city. The Steel Pier is a place where many memories were created and maybe for years to come. The Helicopter Tour is awesome and the rides and games on the Pier are really fun!

  11. shelley smith
    November 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I have some many great memories of the Steel Pier, the diving bell, diving horses, high diving act, music at the Marine Ballroom, dance shows, up and coming artists, you name it, they had it. The motorcycle family in the cage was incredible, they still have a smaller version of that now.

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