At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a popular circus attraction called “horse diving”. Basically, a rider would mount a running horse and dive into a pool of water from a height of about 50 feet (15 metres). In modern times, such entertainment would certainly be considered bizarre and probably cruel to animals. But back then, it drew huge crowds.
Sonora Webster Carver was born in 1904 in Georgia, USA. She was passionate about horses from a very young age and sometimes skipped school to ride them. At 19, Carver answered a newspaper ad looking for a woman who can swim, loves horses, and enjoys travelling a lot. She started training at once. Soon after, she was performing in amusement parks all over America.
In 1931, Sonora was accidentally blinded: one of her dives went bad and she hit the water with her eyes open, which resulted in a retina detachment. Despite the tragedy, she continued to perform for another 11 years. Horse riding was a source of such fun and happiness for her, that she didn’t want to quit the job, no matter what.
Carver finally stopped her horse diving act in 1942 and became an activist helping visually impaired people and working as a braille typist for the Lighthouse for the Blind until her retirement. She died in 2003 at the age of 99. Sonora’s 1961 memoir, A Girl and Five Brave Horses, was later fictionalised in the movie version of her life, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken.