UPDATE (10/20/23): Documents obtained by FOX59 indicate the Indiana Horse Racing Commission fined Dale Hiteman $1,500 for striking a prone horse, later identified as Princess LAA, with a line multiple times on the head and body.
Hiteman was also suspended for 30 days. The suspension started on July 12 and ended Aug. 10.
Hiteman will be on probation for the remainder of the 2023 race meet at Hoosier Park.
ANDERSON, Ind. — A horse trainer has been charged with one count of cruelty to an animal after a video surfaced online appearing to show him striking a horse multiple times at a Madison County park.
The Madison County Prosecutor’s Office announced Tuesday night that Dale Hiteman, 69, has been charged with a class A misdemeanor for allegedly striking a two-year-old horse, named Princes Laa, inside a stall on June 1 at Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing and Casino in Madison County.
The prosecutor’s office cited Indiana Code section 35-46-3-12(b) in its release Tuesday, stating “A person who knowingly or intentionally abuses a vertebrate animal commits cruelty to an animal, a class A misdemeanor.”
The prosecutor’s office said that “abuse” is defined as “knowingly or intentionally beat, torment, injure, or otherwise harm an animal.”
In a YouTube video provided by the prosecutor’s office, a man identified by authorities as Hiteman, can be seen striking the horse with a whip multiple times on the morning of June 1.
Court documents indicate that investigators first became aware of the incident when the video was first posted on YouTube on Sept. 28. Officials proceeded to investigate Hiteman, who was identified as the horse’s owner and trainer.
Hiteman could be seen in the video using a bridal and other equipment on the horse’s head. The horse responded by backing up and falling to the ground in the back corner of the stall, according to court records.
“The video also shows Mr. Hiteman immediately grabbing a lead and began striking the horse. He struck her several times in the body and the last few strikes were to the head,” court documents said.
In addition to speaking with Hoosier Park officials, investigators also spoke with an individual who had been working with Hiteman for a short period before the incident.
The witness allegedly told investigators that they observed Hiteman strike the horse when peering through a doorway into the stall. This individual quit working for Hiteman after the incident, according to court documents.
Investigators spoke with two veterinarians, with one explaining that they couldn’t see any evidence of “scrapes, cuts, welts or other signs of physical abuse over the head, neck, body, hind-end or legs.” Court documents said another veterinarian that investigators spoke to could not understand why Hiteman had struck Princess Laa, stating that the horse was not causing any harm to itself or the handler.
Hiteman later identified himself as the individual striking the horse in the video in a statement to the Indiana Horse Racing Commission, according to court documents. Hiteman reportedly explained that he struck Princess Laa in the head in an attempt to lift the horse off the ground. He said he may have struck the horse a total of six times in the head with a leather line.
Investigators spoke with Hiteman again on Oct. 11. When he was shown the video, Hiteman allegedly identified himself as the individual in the video and told investigators that he “was striking the horse on the back of the head trying to scare her to make her get up.”
The decision of the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office to charge Hiteman follows pressure from the public and the national nonprofit Horseracing Wrongs. The nonprofit held a protest on Oct. 7 at Hoosier Park to call for the prosecutor’s office to prosecute the incident.
Hiteman has not been arrested in relation to the incident. A court hearing has not yet been set.