A previously banned display called horse diving is to make a return to Atlantic City, in the USA.
This so-called entertainment was one of the most popular attractions in Atlantic City in the 1920s through to the late 1970s, when it was stopped by animal rights groups. It involved a horse jumping from a platform, up to 60ft high, into a pool of water below – often ridden by a young, female rider.
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As part of a 100 million dollar make-over of the city’s famous pier, horse diving is to be re-introduced this summer, in the hope of attracting tourists. According to Steel Pier owner Anthony Catanoso, his company has conducted significant research into the sport, including speaking with people who were directly involved in it first time around.
“It’s iconic, it’s historical and it is very popular,” he told CBS News. “Nobody can show us any documentation that diving from Steel pier ever harmed an animal or ever produced any cruelty or abuse. We would not do that.”
However, a spokesperson from UK charity World Horse Welfare said: "We are appalled at the possibility of the Diving Horse Show returning. No horse should have to go through such a terrifying experience. It is an act of irresponsibility where the welfare of the horses involved is clearly not taken into consideration."
The sport was invented by William 'Doc' Carver, after he and his horse allegedly fell from a bridge in Nebraska in 1881. As they crossed, the bridge started to collapse and his horse jumped into the waters below, which gave him the idea of developing his diving horse act.
Although extremely popular at the time, the act was criticised as animal abuse, with claims that prods, electrical jolts and trapped doors were used to force the horses to jump. However, according to Catanoso, his horses will be highly trained, and well looked after.
“I would never allow an act on the pier to be in any way inhumane or abusive to animals” he says. “The fact of the matter is the horses are not forced to do it. They are never harmed.”
The sport was briefly bought back in 1993, but it was ended following protests from animal rights activists, and plans to reintroduce the sport has unsurprisingly led to widespread outrage amongst animal rights groups.
They have launched an online petition calling for Anthony Catanoso to cancel his plans to bring back horse diving. Nearly 10,000 signatures were received in less than a day, but more are needed if this barbaric sport is to be banned before it’s even started.