Posts Tagged ‘Sonora Webster Carver’

Wild hearts can’t be broken

The Disney film ‘Wild hearts can’t be broken’ is based on the life of female horse diver Sonora Webster Carver.  The act which became a permanent show on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier from 1929 entailed the girls having to mount a running horse as it reached the top of a sixty foot tower (later this was reduced to forty feet) and then dive into a tank of water, below.  It is said that in all the years of the act, there was never a horse injured.  Sonora’s sister, Arnett who was a diving girl too, remarks “how the SPCA was always snooping around, trying to find out if they were doing anything that was cruel to animals and how they never found anything because the horses lived the life of Riley.”

I watched the movie years ago, with a fellow horse obsessed friend, we were captivated,we were so horse crazy that given the opportunity we probably would have dived horses too, we would have pretty much done anything to be around horses.

The other day, 18 years later I found a copy of the movie and as I sat and watched it, I could just about remember every scene, it brought back so many fond memories of days spent dreaming about horses and all the time spent out in the backyard jumping derby courses, racing the grand national on our broomstick steeds or diving brave, imaginary horses into the swimming pool.

When I read more about Sonora I was intrigued by her story. Sonora is one of those people who dared to live and who dared to dream.  In 1941 she would be blinded due to retinal detachment.  Her horse Red Lips slipped while attempting a dive and nearly fell straight down. To avoid him flipping over, Sonora sat back as far as she could and put as much of her weight on his rear, Sonora hit the water with her eyes wide open, over the next year her eyesight would begin to deteriorate until she would lose her sight completely. Sonora continued to dive for 11 years after going blind.

Sonora’s account of her life as a diving girl can be read in her 1961 book, a girl and five brave horses.  You only have to read these two extracts from the book to appreciate and understand Sonora’s love for horses.

“To understand how I felt about horses one should know that when I was only five years old, I tried to trade my brother for a horse.  When H.S was  six weeks old I willingly would have traded him for a bay named Sam, had my parents not objected.  Sam was the carriage horse of the woman who lived next door, and she knew I loved him as I loved nothing else in the world.  One day as a joke she asked me if I’d trade. 

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