The spectacle of a horse galloping up a steep ramp, and a lady rider grabbing the harness as the horse jumped forty feet into a huge water tank was a major attraction at amusement parks and traveling circuses in the 1920s. The fantastic feat was exciting, but extremely dangerous for both horse and rider. Eventually, opposition from animal rights activists brought an end to the popular stunt in the 1970s. What became of one of those daring animals after the act ended is the subject of author Cynthia A. Branigan’s book The Last Diving Horse in America: Rescuing Gamal and Other Animals – Lessons in Living and Loving.
Gamal, the diving horse that spent almost all of its 23 years performing at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, was purchased by Cynthia Branigan, a lobbyist for the New York-based Fund for Animals in 1980. When she learned Gamal was up for sale, she decided to buy him as a symbol of an abused, mistreated horse who had given so much pleasure to the public.
Branigan’s quest to uncover everything she could about the bay gelding’s past is captivating and offers readers an opportunity to learn how horses were trained to be high divers and to understand the lasting effects the novelty had on the animals that seemed fit for only one task. Gamal was destined for the slaughterhouse if Branigan hadn’t decided to buy him.
The Last Diving Horse is a transformative story of how Gamal and his new owner rescued one another, how they healed, and learned to trust again.