A rider on horseback performs a stunt high-dive, 1940s. (Photo by: Frederic Lewis/Getty Images)……

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As the name suggests, horse diving is when a horse plunges into a pool of water. The diving ramp can be as high as 60 feet in the air. The most famous venue was Atlantic City’s Steel Pier. This act has since been stopped due to concerns of animal welfare, but was very popular at some point.

William Frank Carver invented the idea of horse diving around 1881. And by 1923, Carver had two diving teams on the road. They toured and stopped in various cities. Animals rights activists pushed for the ending of this act and were successful in 1978. However in 1994, there was an attempt to bring it back to Steel Pier. The attempt failed though.

Many people are familiar with horse diving because of the film, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. This 1991 movie takes place during the Great Depression. The main actress, Sonora Webster, trains to become a dive girl. At some point, she loses her vision due to a failed jump. In the end, Sonora is able to keep performing, despite being blind.

The film touches on an issue of the sport- the risk involved. On average, there were two injuries a year to riders, to include broken bones and bruises. Supposedly, no injuries to horses were recorded. Other outlets suggest that horses suffered bone fractures, internal organ damage, spine injuries and more. The act was eventually declared cruel to animals.

Check out actual footage of horse diving…

While you won’t be able to see horse diving live, but it’s interesting to look at the history of this bizarre and unique act through pictures and videos.