Do I ever love the movie Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. The real life story of Sonora Carver, orphan, runaway and brave young girl who had a dream of becoming a “diving girl” at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Disney worked its best magic when it brought her story to the big screen, and me and my fellow horse-crazy friends watched it on a loop when it was released in 1991.
But the concept of diving horses hardly seemed real. Disney’s movie was artfully set in the 1940s, and to an 8 year old girl that might as well have been 100 years ago.
But yes, horses actually did run up a ramp, people did throw themselves upon their backs at the last minute, and horse and rider did actually leap from the top and “dive” into a small pool below. Sonora Carver actually was a real life person who was blinded during a diving horse accident, and she continued to perform the act, blind, for years after. Cue Samantha Mathis as a young Sonora Carver, and the script practically wrote itself for Hollywood.
But think about this act happening today. Better, think about what would go through your horse’s head if you asked him to do this job.
I don’t know about you, but I’m already shuddering. Since the 1940s when the act was popular, and even since 1993, when the diving horse act finally closed, there has been a hell of a lot of progress in the fields of equestrian welfare, sports medicine, natural horsemanship training and overall perception of our horses and the way we relate to them. Horses are generally understood better than ever before, and another true-life story about a horseman, the movie Buck, played no small part in helping to boost that understanding in the last year.
It’s safe to say that the diving horse act is one of the more dangerous things people have ever thought up to do with horses. And while Sonora Carver’s autobiography detailed the excellent care that her horses received, as well as the lengths she went to to find horses that were brave and seemed to enjoy diving, this scenario wouldn’t hold water today.
If the people of Atlantic City are gamblers, someone should give them a tip: it’s a safe bet that the decision yesterday by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in New Jersey to fund a renovation of the Steel Pier that includes the return of the diving horse act is going to be met by a firestorm of opposition from horse people. Yes, you read that right. Atlantic City is going to bring back the diving horses from days gone by. This from an article by the Press of Atlantic City:
Bringing back Steel Pier diving horse tops Atlantic City’s newly approved Tourism District Master Plan
“By this summer, a beer garden, six new rides and eight new games will start operating beneath new lighting and spruced up, better-coordinated facades. The diving horse act — which last appeared in the summer of 1993 — will be up and running, along with other acts inside an amphitheater in the works, too.”
Really? No, really?!
Get ready Atlantic City, hell hath no fury like horse people on a mission to protect their beloved horses. Nostalgic though it may be, there’s absolutely no place in today’s world for running horses up a ramp and having them leap blindly into midair. On the Line predicts that this poorly thought out move by the powers that be in Atlantic City won’t get very far.
UPDATE – As of February 14th, 2012, the Steel Pier announced that they were shelving the plan to bring back diving horses to Atlantic City. Read more here: http://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/2012/02/121.shtml#.TzsHmXywohw.facebook
Told ya so!