If you watch Boardwalk Empire you are aware that the Atlantic City of yore was filled with some pretty bizarre attractions (exhibits displaying babies in incubators, Paz de la Huerta). Well, now one attraction that originated in the 1920s is set for a return, and is making animal activists angry. If the Steel Pier’s owners get their way, the “diving horse” act — which is exactly what it sounds like — will be on view by the time people flock back to the beach.
In the plan for the new attraction, the horses and riders will dive off of a 30 to 40-foot platform into a 12-feet-deep pool, NBC New York reported.
According to the Press of Atlantic City, the Humane Society spoke out against the return of the act:
“The Humane Society of the United States emphatically opposes equine diving acts, which subject the animals to inhumane and potentially abusive situations in the course of their training, transport and performance,” Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said in a written statement. “The stress and trauma endured by these animals, in addition to the risk of injury to them, make these acts unacceptable. They are senseless animal exploitation, for the sake of entertainment and profit.”
The original act ended in 1978, but diving horses were brought back briefly in 1993. That show — which had no humans riders, but a mule, a dog and two ponies — was then closed after protests.
As strange and disturbing as it might sound, the diving horse has a long history in our area’s amusement park. Amazon has a 1908 print of a diving horse attraction at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Meanwhile, a web site “dedicated to the OLD STEEL PIER and those that loved it,” features a page on the diving horses and what became of some of them.