Welfare Water Watch: Diving Horses

The blog Dappled Grey shared a news article regarding the re-opening of a horse diving act in Atlantic City.  The last horse diving was in 1993, but the height of its popularity was in the late 19th and early 20th century.
On several occasions in elementary school a substitute teacher would play the movie of Sonora Webster Carver, the girl who suffered detached retinas in a horse diving accident, yet continued to dive blind for some time after.  I'm sure many of you have also seen the movie.  The movie was so deeply imprinted on my young self, that any thought or images of diving horses gives me shudders, and I imagine I'm not the only one.

Source, with relevant horse-diving information

Some people claim that requiring horses to dive is an egregious assault on animal welfare.
Others claim that the horses love to jump and the occurrence of injury in either horse or rider is minimal.

Relevant to the Atlantic City actions to revive the entertainment, New Jersey's welfare statute states:

"A person who shall purposely, knowingly, or recklessly:
(1) Torment, torture, maim, hang, poison, unnecessarily or cruelly beat, or needlessly mutilate a living animal or creature; or
(2) Cause or procure , by any direct or indirect means, including but not limited to through the use of another living animal or creature, any such acts to be done--
Shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
If the animal or creature is cruelly killed or dies as a result of a violation of this subsection, or the person has a prior conviction for a violation of this subsection, the person shall be guilty of a crime of the third degree."

So who is right?  Is instructing a horse to jump into a tank of water purposefully torture?
It is hard to imagine the impact onto water from 60 feet up is painless for a horse, but the participants claim that the horses are well taken care of, are loved, and enjoy their job- what would make horse diving any different than other intense equine sports like X-Country or polo?



I don't have enough knowledge to know who is right in this argument, but we can be certain the debate will swirl over the proposed amusement to the Steel Pier!

If you happened to be in the area, could your nerves handle watching a horse diving show?