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by Halley Sanford June 12, 2022 2 min read 3 Comments

Trailblazer. Risk taker. Entertainer. Advocate. There are a number of admirable adjectives you could attribute to the legendary Sonora Webster Carver, but ‘unbelievably resilient’ might be her most defining.

The Georgia-born beauty always had an affinity for equines, even skipping school on occasion to sneak in a ride, and at 19, it was that love, her adventurous spirit, and an advertisement placed by William “Doc” Carver seeking an “attractive young woman who can swim and dive; likes horses; desires to travel” that led her to New Jersey where she forged a career as one of the first female horse divers.

Sonora, who later married Doc Carver’s son, Al, made her first public dive – a breathtaking 40-foot plunge – on May 20, 1924 and ascended the ranks of attractions in the epicenter of entertainment at the time, the illustrious Atlantic City Pier, among the likes of traveling acts such as Annie Oakley and eventually Frank Sinatra.

Tragedy struck in 1931 when an unbalanced horse dive caused Sonora to hit the water with her eyes open which detached her retinas and caused permanent blindness. Remarkably, she was undeterred; she learned Braille and continued to dive for 11 more years. As Sonora’s sister and fellow diver, Arnette, put it, “Once you were on the horse, there really wasn’t much to do but hold on.”

When World War II deflated the entertainment industry, Sonora and Al moved to New Orleans where she became a typist at the Lighthouse for the Blind and an advocate for the visually impaired. In 1961, she published a memoir, A Girl and Five Brave Horses,which was later adapted (in Sonora’s opinion, loosely and inaccurately) into the 1991 film Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Sonora died in 2003 at the age of 99.



3 Responses

Bambi Kiser
Bambi Kiser

June 19, 2022

Really enjoyed this feature! Just an amazing story!

LAINEY JOYCE-KLINGEMANN
LAINEY JOYCE-KLINGEMANN

June 13, 2022

Vacationing in Atlantic City every year of my youth in the 1960’s, I spent many summers watching the thrill of the “Diving Horse & Rider”. It was breathtaking!

Carina Spies
Carina Spies

June 13, 2022

So very intetesting as well as amazing💙

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