An Oklahoma judge sentenced a hoof-carving horse trainer to five years in prison Thursday for the mutilation deaths of multiple horses.
Robert Dimitt, of Sallisaw, looked shocked when Sequoyah County District Judge Jeff Payton announced his fate. Officers immediately remanded Dimitt to custody to begin serving his sentence.
Dimitt will spend 10 years on parole after he is released. He is prohibited from being around any horses during that time. If he skirts the conditions of his release he will be returned to prison.
The animal cruelty case changed directions last month when Dimitt modified his plea from not guilty to no contest. Dimitt’s acceptance of a blind plea allowed the judge to decide his fate rather than a jury.
Dimitt’s attorney sought probation for his client.
Sequoyah County deputies arrested Dimitt in August 2015. Charlotte Northam, of Ada, alerted authorities to dead horses on Dimitt’s property. Dimitt cut the frogs out of the horses’ hooves to “make them run faster”.
Northam is the agent for Kentucky racehorse owner Edward D. Leslie, MD. Northam says she hopes this case makes horse owners more aware of what can happen when you don’t check on your horses in training. “People need to make more physical well-being checks and be very careful of what trainer they use.”
Court documents state Dimitt used Ty Blackwell and Tana Pace as trainers of record when racing his customers’ American Quarter Horses. Dimitt’s doping suspensions left him unable to hold a Racing Commission License in Oklahoma or New Mexico.
Dr. Leslie’s horses Awesome Ashley and Ashley’s Freight Train were victims of Dimitt’s abusive training methods.
Ashley’s Freight Train died in a paddock without water or veterinary care before her body was burned. DNA testing was necessary to identify her.
Many in the horse racing industry knew about Dimitt’s methods, including Blackwell and Pace, although they failed to report the animal abuse.
Dimitt’s abuse was discovered too late for at least five horses. A veterinarian euthanized Awesome Ashley after three weeks of treatment. The mare’s foot turned to mush causing her coffin bone to protrude through her hoof.
The doctor’s third filly Gold Digging Ashley was a race winner in her three-year-old division. Her left hind foot separated from the coronary band. She also suffered from pneumonia. A veterinarian report notes her other three feet had injuries similar to the left rear from the severe trimming, frog mutilation and infection.
Dimitt even “applied live electric wires to her chest to make her cough,” according to Dr. Leslie.
Although Dr. Leslie was unable to attend the sentencing he sent an impact statement for the judge’s consideration prior to sentencing.
The retired orthopedic surgeon described the depth of Dimitt’s animal cruelty to the judge. “Imagine if the skin on the palms of your hands and the muscles of your feet were surgically excised, and you were placed in the middle of an empty Walmart parking lot on a 100 degree Oklahoma summer day.”
“No amount of justice will ever be obtained for the animals we lost or for their owner,” Northam says.
She adds saving Gold Digging Ashley from dying was a major accomplishment for her. Although the Quarter Horse is no longer sound to race, no one will ever hurt her again. The mare remains in Northam’s care.