Ok, I want to preface this post by saying that I have been vegetarian for over 30 years. I love animals. I never want to see one harmed, but I have to share this fact with you. The year is 2014…and you can still see a Diving Horse show in the United States! WHOA.
Surprised? I was too. Our friends at the Magic Forest continue to keep things bizarre with this throwback attraction that I sincerely thought died in the 1920s. Apparently not. File this under “Things you just don’t see anymore”. These are the kinds of attractions we imagine only existed when our great grandmother was alive. We remember seeing them in black and white news reel footage, or photographs in an old book about Steel Pier. In fact, plans to bring a diving horse back to the Jersey Shore were unsurprisingly scrapped in 2012!
Still, I assure you, I’ve seen a diving horse with my own eyes.
For 37 years, The Magic Forest has had a diving horse show to entertain guests. First there was Rex, who dove for 18 years before going into retirement in the 1990s and living out the rest of his life at the park. Rex was followed by Thunder who has retired but still lives in the park, and now her companion Lightning takes the jump.
Twice a day for 2 months out of the year Lightning is lead up a 60 foot ramp, where he dives 9 feet into a 117,000 gallon pool before his crowd of stunned fans. Lightning then swims to the other side of the pool and gets a well deserved bucket of oats. The show only lasts 2 minutes, but I promise, it is 2 minutes you will never forget.
The park assures visitors that Lightning always jumps on his own, and is never forced to dive. Instead, he’s given positive reinforcement and is treated humanely. From my observation, I believe this to be completely true. Watch this video if you don’t believe me!He almost seems to enjoy the attention. Lightning is something of a celebrity at the park, and aside from the oats, he gets a heaping helping of fanfare from stunned kids and parents alike. He is a real showman and seems to pause and look at his audience before each jump building anticipation, and letting them know “yep, you’re really about to see this go down.”
The first diving horse took flight sometime in the late 1800s and to find one today almost unchanged is a remarkable throwback to a much simpler time in American amusements. Although I was conflicted about the show at first, I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to experience it first hand. So kids, now you know- the last diving horse show is alive in 2014 and if I were you, I’d get yourself to the Adirondack Mountains- and quick- to see it as soon as you can!