I found out today about the diving horses.
Apparently, this was a popular spectacle in Atlantic City from the 1905 to 1978. Then last year someone tried to organize the stunt again, but was blocked by animal rights activists.
It is interesting how what is considered moral or immoral behaviour can sometimes change from one age to the other. Today, for example, we talk much about animal rights. But this was not very much taken into account in earlier times (and it still is not in many parts of the world, such as China). Since I am a lover of animals, I take it as a form of progress, but, as in all things human, there is no guarantee whatsoever that such tendencies will last.
In fact, today the welfare of animals seems to be more taken into account than that of humans. That is certainly the case for certain activists that are not afraid to hurt humans in order to free animals from labs that experiment on them.
In the case of the diving horses, apparently no activist was worried about the risks incurred by the riders in the activity, which seem to have been considerable higher than for the animals. By the way, the riders were all women, so the spectacle would probably also be considered sexist today: “All the girl has to do is look pretty and not fear height or water. . . The horse knows what to do. He’ll take care of you,” said one of them, Lorena Carver, who by the way according to the same source “averaged one broken bone per year.”
Sonora Carver, her sister, became blind after an unlucky fall dislocated her retinas. Still, she continued jumping for another eleven years. She loved it: “It was a wild, almost primitive feel, that only comes with complete freedom of contact with the earth.” Or the water.
According to another performer, Annette French, the horses loved doing it too: “The S.P.C.A. was always snooping around, trying to find if we were doing anything that was cruel to animals. They never found anything because those horses lived the life of Riley. In all the years of the act, there was never a horse that was injured.”
Those were different times, indeed. Still, it is probably a good idea that the show is no longer performed.