From the 1920s to 1978, horse-diving acts were the main attraction at Steel Pier in Atlantic City. They were revived for a couple of months in 1993 by new owners of the pier, but abandoned after protests by animal rights groups.
Horse diving got its start in the late 1800s with William “Doc” Carver, a former performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. The act consists of a horse and rider diving from a 40- to 60-foot height into a 10- to 12-foot deep tank of water. Carver’s act became an entertainment staple at Steel Pier in the 1920s; it also spawned similar acts around the world, a memoir from one of the divers, a Disney film, and a Broadway musical.
As Steel Pier undergoes a multimillion renovation in the New Millennium, its owners (the same owners who closed the act in 1993) want to resurrect the nostalgic equine act. Naturally, animal welfare groups cried foul.
I signed a petition against the decision recently and was about to ask you to do the same. But good news arrived today instead! The owners have decided to abandon their idea. But not because of the outcry.
“We just felt that since Atlantic City is moving forward, we should move forward with it,” said Anthony Catanoso to the Associated Press, speaking on behalf of his family who owns the pier. “We should create new memories for visitors instead of re-creating old ones.”
Sigh. I wish Tony and his family were equipped with the intelligence and compassion necessary to see the inherent danger that diving poses to horses. But I’ll take victory however it comes to pass.
As Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the U.S., said, “This is a merciful end to a colossally stupid idea.”