Sonora Webster Carver, the famous horse diver of Atlantic City, died on Sept. 21. Cause of death was not released. She was 99.
Carver was born and raised in Georgia. At 20, she answered a want ad for a female rider to perform in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West” show. Intrigued by the possibility of fame and travel, Carver applied for the job.
In 1924, she became the first woman to fall 40 feet on horseback into a tank of water at Steel Pier in Atlantic City, and inspired the 1991 Disney movie, “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” starring Gabrielle Anwar.
Seven years after her first jump, Carver and her horse, Red Lips, had an accident that left her blinded. When they hit the water off-balance, Carver suffered from detached retinas. Undaunted by her impaired vision, she continued to ride the high-diving horses until World War II. Then she moved to New Orleans and became a transcriptionist.
The diving horses attraction was discontinued in 1978 after animal-rights activists complained. In her autobiography, “A Girl and Five Brave Horses,” Carver insisted the animals loved the dives and were not forced to jump.