What was it like to ride a diving horse?


Riders of the Diving Horses were always glamorous young women
The riders of the diving horse were always glamorous young women, clad in bathing suits.

Some time ago I wrote about the diving horses of Atlantic City — Don’t Try this at Home — a story that has captured the imagination of many readers.

Yesterday, I received a comment from Louise Lamoureux who has first hand experience. Rather than leave this as a comment, I thought it deserved its own post. In her own words, here she is!

I was so surprised to read that some people would think that the horses were mistreated!

The horses were not forced they did what they were taught to do…just like us humans.

Let me tell you about the story of a young girl of 15, who was told to get on the horse as soon as he got near her and hang on tight and keep her head on the side of the horse when he hits the water. She had no idea how dangerous that could be but she wanted to please her caretaker so she did it!
Was she unhappy? No, because that is what she had to do? Was she scared? Yes, but that is what she had to do. Was it bad for her? No, because she didn’t know otherwise and didn’t not know the possible consequences. Did it make her life miserable? No, it was nice to get applause and to be granted some benefices because she did what was asked of her. Did some people took advantage of her? Probably, but it was not her perception at the time.

The horse and her shared the same reality: they both were not conscious. They did what was expected of them and were gratified for it, what else do you need when you are helpless and not conscious?

I know, because I was that girl. I dove at Atlantic Steel Pier so my manager could decide if I were the right girl to do the same show in a pool inside a stadium for Hamid and Morton circus.

I was a trapeze artist, but since I was not scared easily, they thought I could make this act also. I did. ..for a year. Two shows after I left, the tank split open when the horse dove, the horse came out of it safe…the girl…..

By the way, Mrs Carver cared a lot about her horses. She was the one who enticed them to jump when I was doing the dives. I dove with Phantom (he was white and very poised; he liked to look around, would not stand any noise or anything thing floating in the water. He could take up to 5 minutes before he decided to jump.

And there was Gamel, (he was brown and very quick; he got out of the elevator and went straight on to jump). I would go and talk to them between shows. They did not seem unhappy horses to me, no more different than the horses I’ve seen in different stales since. I am under the impression that a horse does not do what they do not want to do. Mrs Carver told me that it took one hundred horse to find one that would jump in the water. I felt that her horses and the act were her reason to live.

The lesson I got from that experience is that what doesn’t kill makes you stronger. That little girl grew up and was blessed with a heart with no fear and that nothing is impossible if we don’t let fear interfere. That is is not what happens to you that makes it good or bad but the perception of it.
The horse do not know what is good or bad, it just what is.

5 thoughts on “What was it like to ride a diving horse?

  1. Thanks Liz, for sharing Louise’ letter, and thanks Louise, for sharing your experience. Very insightful and thought provoking: thinking about how our perception of reality can be more powerful than the ‘reality’ alone. Excellent post all around.

  2. Puffed up (& thinly veiled) self-righteousness & self-justification &…

    Stockholm syndrome & speciesism writ large.

    Gee, I guess “Louise” is an unbiased observer?!

    Talk about superstitious bunkum.

    What would one expect her to say–that she supports PETA’s call to end Thoroughbred flat racing?

    I mean really, giving even a second’s worth of credence to such self-serving bias such as this this is akin to inviting W. & Dick to serenade us again about the imminent threat of WMDs.

    And, oh, does Louise possess the psychic ability to communicate with horses?

    Otherwise, on what rational basis can she make the outrageous claim that the horses who were forced to participate in this grotesque form of entertainment for human animals were “happy?”

    For anyone who values empiricism, integrity, & empathy, it is insulting to hold up such self-serving balderdash as worthy of serious consideration.

    1. While you are entitled to your opinion, I really can’t agree with you.

      Louise is right when she points out that you cannot make a horse do something that it does not want to do or is afraid of. If you look at the contemporary photos there is no sign that the horses were chased or whipped to perform. In fact, I’ve seen photos of Sonora Carver training the horses to dive and they start by just having them walk into a pool of water. The fact that she says that only 1 out of 100 horses was suitable as a diving horse shows that the horses were culled; only those suitable were used.

      It’s the same with riding a horse over fences. The horses that don’t want to jump don’t. You can’t make them.

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