Unicorn Dressage

Not just for dressage enthusiasts . . .


What Others Are Saying
About Jim DiMilte

Letters and comments from students and friends ...

Great lesson with Jim DiMilte again today. I'm really heartened to see the changes in my riding and my seat. I'm thankful to have an instructor who explains in a way that gets through my thick skull and a horse that gives no quarter when I lose "it."
    Carly Dee Goltiani

Thank you, Jim, for helping my children to grow into such good riders! Their successes at Fair are a credit to you!
    Shannon Nelson

Happy Birthday, amazing dressage instructor! And many more!
    Kathy Grasher

I hear your words often when I am riding/teaching. Happy Birthday.
    Paige Ruhl

Happy birthday, Jim! You are an amazing person, coach, and mentor. You taught me not only to be a better rider, but also to be a better person. Hope your day is full of love gratitude. ♡
    Viktoriya V.

Jim, not sure if this is still a valid email, but wanted to wish you a happy bday. I’ve thought a lot about you since moving away and how much you taught me about position and riding. You were the first person and now when I ride with others, you are the standard I want in an instructor. But more importantly, I valued your friendship and hope that things are going well.

Great lesson today! Claire has a cold starting, and didn't want to come: chose riding over room cleaning! (Who wouldn't!) She came away feeling good, and talking about showing Hunt Seat! You are truly the Jedi Master!
    Shannon Nelson

I have been thinking about my studies for next year . . . I think I may just go into the equine business . .. like I always wanted to, but I thought the fear of horses was standing in my way of making a career out of it . .. but now I've gotten over it so quickly . . .* Thanks to you! LOL
But yeah just wanted to let you know, I've changed my mind, just because you have taken my fear away about horses wanting to hurt me!!* and their size was so intimidating!*
    Lizzie Dissington from South Africa

It was a pleasure meeting you in Cle Elum last weekend. Thank you for the fabulous tutorial on being a scribe!
    Julie Khyler

I wanted to say thank you for your teaching today. It was welcomed by all of us, and I would be more than happy to scribe for you again, if you would like, and learning more of what classical dressage should look like!
    Heather Seibert

I wanted to tell you that I planted the magic beans you gave me during my lesson with Tilly and they sprouted yesterday when I rode her :)
I was even able to bend her in the canter like I tried to do in my lesson, which prolonged the duration of the canter. I would bend her around my leg and as I released, she was more willing to keep going because she learned it was easier than cantering with a bend. It amazes me how fast she learns. 88 rides to go!
    Vic Carter

That's awesome man, I am not surprised at all that she did this. You are an amazing instructor.
    Justin Sousa

Hi Jim, I'm sure you don't remember me, but I had taken lessons from you for a while when I was a young teenager in Rockford, IL (Oakcrest and then Ledges). I was looking for a classical dressage instructor and had come across your name on a site somewhere. Unfortunately, I'm looking for someone in the Chicago area, but when I saw your name I couldn't resist dropping you a note and letting you know what an important impact you had on my early riding. I felt like you gave me a wonderful foundation and seat to work with, and I have always had the greatest respect for you. I'm glad to see you are still teaching, and inspiring riders.
    Yours truly,
    Michaela Linton

We had another great ride today, worked on canter departs and transitions back ... got some really nice ones ... then on to walk, halt, walk, halt and discovered that TODAY, Boomer needed very little leg for the halts, it was more of a thought and a lengthening of my torso in both directions ... interesting, again it is do less. Then back to canter and played with control through my seat. Amazing, we had some great canters. Thanks to you finally getting through to me!

The vet had not seen Chloe since September (before we started on this journey). He couldn’t get over how much she had changed and how good she looked. He was very impressed with her development. Kudos to you, Jim, for coaching us in (obviously!) the right way. No doubt that my little mare looks (and moves) a whole lot different. Thank you!!!
    Adena Ray

I had such a good lesson yesterday it’s inspired me and I can’t wait to get off work today to go practice what you taught me.
    Linda Gilbert

Hi Jim. I wanted to thank you again for being able to give Doris a lesson. It truly made all the difference. She hadn't been in the saddle for over two years and wanted to get back into riding, but was nervous about getting on a horse again. I knew a lesson with you on Mozzie would give her the relaxed, safe environment she needed to get her confidence back and it did just that! She is going to start riding again when she gets back to Switzerland and is so excited about it again.
    Natalie Sears

I’m so appreciative of your help. I hadn’t thought to watch Chloe’s tail as an indicator of how she was going. Now that you’ve given me that information, I have another gauge on my “dashboard.”
    Adena Ray

The obligation of an instructor should be primarily to the art he teaches.
    Charles de Kunffy

I forgot to add, that I am so pleased with my lessons, every time  you teach me something new and amazing about horses. LOVE IT!
    Linda Gilbert

Even though you might not think you have these qualities, you do. You have a talent for distilling the often bewildering concepts of dressage and making them accessible to everyone.

The Smile Says It All

By William Micklem
From The Chronicle of the Horse, November 28, 2011

Here is the goal I am working towards ... This is lovely. Oh, and by the way, YOU ARE ALREADY THERE!!! (and have been for a long time) ...
    Karen Fitz

Charles de Kunffy: The Teacher’s Notebook
By Charles de Kunffy
From Dressage Today, December 2011

I'm extremely thankful to have you as an instructor. I don't know where I'd be with Gwyn, certainly not as progressed as we are. So thank you, for everything you've done for me. I can't tell you how much it means to have an amazing mentor like you.
    Amy McKenna

Today, Chloe really didn’t want to work under saddle. I’m okay with that, she is young and I haven’t been mixing it up as much as I probably should have.
    So, I worked her in the long lines and this really seemed to jazz her (in a good way). This was the first time I could really see her at work in a long time. All I can say is WOW! The “lift the back” work carried right over, as did the cue to lower the neck and come on to the bit. I had NO idea how she looked since I have no mirrors and it’s too dark in the round pen for Denny to take photos. It was like I was looking at somebody else’s horse!  After seeing her at work I KNOW we’ve been on the right path.  Amazing difference in a couple of months.
    I am totally overwhelmed. Wow! I am so thankful that I’ve come on this journey and really appreciate your help.
    Adena Ray

Larry really enjoyed the lesson. He kept saying how nice you were and how much he appreciated the time you took to work with him and your patience. We both really like your teaching style a lot. It's fun for me to start over and get a really great base.

During yesterday’s lesson you said you weren’t doing much to help me accomplish the best ride on Mozzie (and probably any other mount), but I want to take the time to thank you, if not for yesterday’s lesson, for all previous ones which led to this one. I was having problems with motivation before, but now I feel fully charged! I couldn’t have found a trainer who cares more than you.
    You are very good at giving motivation and purpose. I thank you for that as well! Alexis also said she had a good lesson, in fact, it was the highlight of her day!
    Vic Carter

That’s the best thing about your teaching, you can explain the WHY of the therefore.
    Linda Gilbert

"The more you exclude the world, the closer you get to your horse."

"Naturally, there are more important things than riding — but not while you are riding.”

    Hans Senn

I rode yesterday and today, worked on keeping my knees down and didn't lose my stirrups once! Whoo Hoo!

Jean Moyer said to tell you that I have greatly improved and you've done well! Lots of kudos for my improved positions, handling Boomer, Boomer's talents ... we cantered, got correct leads, shoulder in, haunches in, lengthening at trot, transitions ... nothing we haven't done. My foot did slide home - bummer, and Jean yelled about that, but we had only a few swapping of leads, rode in the field ... We even jumped because I finally felt secure enough and trusted Boomer enough to try again, found my leg and WOW, we did it! Boomer was a star.

Celebrate! I was playing with "feeling the walk" and when I got it, I moved on to trot - slow first and then bigger and bigger and bigger and WOW I got it...lost it, got it again and again! This was the one step forward - I await the two backwards!
    Tonights riding consisted of riding from the seat - can I really control the speed with the seat - by golly I got that too! at all three gaits...so then I moved to transitions every 15 steps...more like every twenty, but transitions within gait, up and down, it is days like today that I wish you were here tomorrow! I question mysel - did I really do it? Was it correct?...For now I will assume it was and celebrate!

Sparty is retiring this month after long and great service as a fine teacher.

Key word is "teaching" ...

I enjoyed him very much!

I am sure that you will miss his honest and reliable self a great deal.

Glad for Sparty. He is a great horse! He's earned his retirement!

I wanted to let you know that I'm working with a green pony and have been doing the long line lessons you taught me with her. I'm very pleased with her progress and she seems to really enjoy lateral work. The long line work is really improving her. Thanks! I'm still using the teaching!!!!

I am so still smilin big time ... and Yes you can def post this on your web ... you have done sooo much for me in just a small amount of time ... I so listened to all you said and put it to practical use ... and I have such a new and better relationship with my horse ... you are so appreciated!!!!

I went out today and saddled, bridled, and got on my horse.  We rode inside the arena and opened the gate ON THE HORSE and rode around outside for about an hour. I am sooooo freakin proud of myself. This is prob kindergarten for most people, but the one lesson from the other day launched my self-confidence big time. Just saying thanks so much!!!!!

Becky said Melissa is riding much better. I owe it all to you.

I found it awesome mostly because I had a few times where I really felt that Dakota was moving ... It wasn't just that he seemed to have energy but that when he did have energy he was also lighter on the bit. Sure it didn't last long, but it was exciting to experience that I could achieve it. Plus I felt like I did a better job of not letting Dakota get away with certain actions, such as escaping through his outside shoulder. I felt more in control of my body, and as a result I felt more in control of Dakota. I feel like I am finally able to see some results of all my hard work.

I'm also continuing to use the lessons you taught me. I LOVE long lining. I'm getting more creative and in what I ask for and am doing more with my green youngster. What a GREAT foundation! I'm looking forward to scheduling another lesson with you. Merry Christmas!

It was a pleasure meeting you yesterday, and informative as well! I think that if Molly had had an instructor like you, she might have remained interested in the equine arts. You have a way of making learning fun and interesting. You have obviously found your niche!

Jean Moyer commented that we had been doing a great job on them. We talked later among ourselves and said that it wasn't the great job on them, but the GREAT JOB you've been doing on US! The horses were happy and showed alot less resistance. Thank you again.

It's always an experience watching you work with Magic, you have so much patience ...

After you left yesterday I thought, "Wow, I just trimmed a hoof."   You take the mystery out of "anything horses." Thanks for being a GREAT teacher.

Excellent lesson, you have a way of describing what is happening to my body that I don't even realize myself. That said, you then explain it to me in a way that I can relate to how I ride. That enables me to understand the conversation I'm having with Sparty, a conversation only he and you knew I was having ... until yesterday that is ... Thank you.

Had the best time with you and the horse that I have had in years.

Thank you for the grand afternoon. It is always enlightening and refreshing to have you inspire us! We talked at lunch about your "pearls" of riding, for a long time.
    Marta and Brad

That's one thing I always liked about you and your teaching – an all-round program of education. Melanie and I were talking recently about how much we enjoyed the gatherings that you had that combined potlucks, camaraderie and some type of educational and/or other valuable information.
    Anne and Melanie

Great lesson yesterday; however, I woke up at 1:00 and all I could think about was getting back on Moon to practice. If it had been summer I just might have. Today after work though, I need to know, did that really happen or was it my imagination! LOL

Hey, Jim - Got your address from Carol and thought I'd say hi. I think so often of how you saved my life when I was dumb enough to buy a ridden-three-times four-year-old. Good grief. I haven't gotten over the horse habit, but hopefully I buy smarter now.
    Have taken up Combined Driving Events and am actually doing quite well. Hopefully I'll fix that problem this year. Dressage is our forte and although I love the marathon with the hazards, I don't have the guts to go fast enough. I'm driving a pair of now 6YO black (in the winter) Morgan geldings. Also have a Holsteiner/Welsh cobb. After five years out of the saddle, I'm back trying to have the nerve to ride again.
    Living in Rockton with a nice farm with indoor and all the bells and whistles. Life is good.
    Thanks very belatedly for your help in keeping me safe in the early days. I still have to laugh when I think of some of our trail rides -- and me putting the pelham in Gov upside down. You chuckled so kindly.
    Will keep you in mind for clinics.

It was a great lesson, you explain things so well, I will be practicing for the next lesson. Did you mind Kim being there? Her thing is trail riding, but she loves to see her horse Moon being worked in different ways. She was impressed by your knowledge of dressage and horse movement.

Great lesson today and big changes.


This sounds a lot like my lessons with Jim ...

From the article: "He gives absolutely specific instructions on how to use the hands, the legs and the rider’s weight. Exactly how to raise the hands to elicit a open poll angle, precisely how to turn the hand to achieve a flexion, how far apart the hands should be carried (how often did we hear "separate your hands!). Similarly, he is very precise about where the weight should be, particularly during lateral work. The rider needs to sit in the direction of the movement at all times in order to assist the horse’s balance."

He asked most of riders to do rising trot rather than sitting, and put them all onto the "incorrect" diagonal when doing lateral work – again, to assist the horse’s balance. He gives clear explanations of how to introduce a horse to the use of the spurs – not only how, but why it should be done with care and delicacy.


I really feel like I have been improving. :) A few months ago I would have never imagined being able to ride Sunny and now I can, and it's all thanks to your great teaching! It helps to have an instructor who challenges me! I like challenges. :) My legs are not so happy though ... ha ha!

Worked on what we talked about in lesson - and I don't really need to do anything else. He didn't grab the bit, almost no chomping, but not locked mouth. When I would get relaxed his trot would get bigger and bigger, until I would lock up or feel that I had to post to stay on! Lateral work had more flow, less restricted. Good stuff. Easy if I can sit like that.

You have always had success with a lot of horses that no one else would ride.

I was thinking about you recently as I got my dressage instructor and physical therapist out together to help address some issues with my riding. You are so rare that you understand the human and horse body to help us out. Miss you and hope all is well.

I remember that my first lesson from you, I learned more than I did from riding for 6 months at the hunter barn I used to work at in Oregon.

Two years ago, I was able to establish contact with an equestrian academy from my home country, Belgium, and to visit them, observe them riding and training their horses, and take a lesson on one of their Lusitano schoolmasters.
    Back then, I just did basic movements (W/T/C, SI and some HP). That is probably all I was ready for at that time. This year, I came back and, after spending the last 2 ½ years focusing solely on my education, improving my equitation skills and my understanding of the correct principles of classical horse training, I was ready to do much more. The last few years have been a time of perseverance, sometimes seeming tedious, and I felt that I was kind of "missing out" on the fun - like showing, etc. However, this has more than paid off and this year things have really started to come together. For me, this opportunity to ride a more advanced schoolmaster has been the culmination of this year's season, when all of it came together. I am now coming back with a totally renewed outlook on classical equitation.
    Thank you, Jim, for a superb job preparing me for this experience. I came to the school ready to go to serious work this time. And now, for Jim, some of the positive comments I received from Michel while riding. They reflect well on the quality work we have been doing these last few years:
    "You have a great position and balance on the horse." (Boy, does that feel good considering where I come from.)
    "Perfect submission of the horse in that shoulder-in."
    "You have good understanding of the principles of dressage training."
    "You ride with precision."
    Click here to read more about riding in Belgium.

Jim, I've been meaning to write to say thanks for your help the other day with the heels. (Yes, I am practicing ... ) I always appreciate and respect your advice even though it's not really fun to hear that I'm doing something wrong ... I do like your passion for riding; it can be very stimulating.

And I understand what you and Lisa are doing, no worries there. Like I said, I learn differently from both of you so that is a great package for me, appreciate you both considering me the way you have and looking out for what is best for me.
    The funny thing is I relate to you and Lisa both equally and yet you are both different in your approach. Lisa is about feel, as you said, and I am all about that. But my mind also works a in concept mode, so you explain things and tell me things that answer all my "why" questions, thus building the concept of the process I need to follow. Once I develop the concept, then I can add facts to build on, the analytical stuff. My weakest point is my analytical side (no lie) so until I develop the feel and the concept, every time you help me fine tune my actions I can't keep track of all the "new and not absorbed facts" I need to know and I think too hard and get rattled. You, Mr. Insightful, already know that ... that's why I appreciate your guidance in this whole thing! Thank you for that!

I had a fantastic time riding in Belgium. Thanks to you, with everything I have been learning these last few years, I was well ready to go for it. I now have had a chance to ride most of the "stuff" on a more advanced schoolmaster – and it went really well. Same horse as two years ago – but not the same rider!!
    I think I got addicted to the passage (this is one of this horse's strong point) – absolutely earth shattering BIG passage on these Lusitanos – nothing like the whimpy stuff you see on some of the competition horses. Great time riding half-passes, changes and so on ... All I really had to do is to ride well and applied what I learned – it works!

My lesson was great yesterday, I guess it's amazing a horse even moves for us at all, trying to guess what us greenies are asking and all.
     I could tell with Zippo that when I wasn't giving him the cue the correct way that was the only thing holding us back. I hate it when the horse is smarter than me. But is was a good lesson, a lot of the pieces fell into place, now if I can only get it right when I practice.

I would proudly wear a shirt that said -- "Seat by DiMilte. Enough said."

Jim, I was riding Turner today and we'd trailered off to meet friends. I'd thought about you recently as I was trying to sit Axels' trot and did my usual head to toe inventory to minimize my interference with him. Thanks for all you taught me. We are all doing well and progressing. I've got Turner into jumping lessons with Charlie Plumb (Michael Plumb's son and my neighbor). He's doing a great job giving him the basics while I continue to work with my dressage coach to work on his flat work. He's a joy and Axel is being fantastic. I'm so lucky to have two fabulous horses and I thank you for helping me give them a better ride.

How cool is that!! What a neat guy and a great teacher. Goes to show that riding instruction is about so much more than riding horses!!!

All in all, though, things have turned out pretty well here. I find that I still quote you regularly after all these years. The good lessons and great teachers will always stay with you. Thanks for being such a good role model for me at a time when that was exactly what I needed. I just want you to know that I am grateful for everything you have taught me, and that I have tried to live my life the best I can, and through that I have used every little bit of philosophy and guidance you've ever crammed down my throat. Thanks, Jim. I hope all is well with you, and life finds you fit, happy and rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Thanks for a wonderful lesson today. I am again grateful to be your riding student! I had some clarifying moments today.

I love my lessons, I will be practicing all week.

If you’re wondering why I’m so peppy this early in the morning, it’s because I wake up knowing that finally I am putting in the work to pursue my dream, and it makes me feel alive. Thank you so much for being instrumental in making my dream come true, and for believing in me. It is such a gift you are giving me of your knowledge. I know I’m paying money for it, but it still feels like a huge gift and I just wanted to say thank you for the time, effort, and patience you put toward my progress as an equestrienne.

Minka feels INCREDIBLE! I have to be a much better rider to work with what you have given me, and I feel myself stepping up to the challenge.
    The first thing I felt is that I have more back to sit on now. She feels like she has become accustomed to being surrounded by attentive leg and rein aids, so now if I’m not fast enough, I can feel her move in a direction where I missed applying the aid, and have to catch up to her. She is showing me where my inconsistencies are with my aids and I am learning to have her between BOTH legs, and BOTH rein aids. She is gaining in flexibility and tone without acting like cooked spaghetti. I did an uberstreichen at the trot and there was no change in tempo or contact on the rein I continued to hold. I can feel more movement in her entire body at the walk now, and I am working to maintain tone in my core so I don’t flop around, but I’m still relaxed. At one point, while they were dumping rock at the far end of the arena, she shied and took a few lunging canter strides before I got her back under control and trotted on. Thanks to you, my seat is secure enough that I don’t get left behind, and I can quickly settle her and ride off like nothing happened.
    In a word, I am gobsmacked. Please let me know what we need to do to keep making this kind of progress. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! You’ve made me so happy I’m getting a little choked up. I can’t wait to see you tomorrow and ride my horse again.


This is what I was trying to express yesterday during my phone call of, "OMG, I had such a great ride!" Right now, sensations are unfolding for me like the petals of a flower, and the stimulus is so overwhelming I can't be anywhere BUT in the moment while I'm up there. It's like I'm getting a lightening storm of "a-ha" moments during each ride. I can feel the bit contact in my hands consistently, I can feel there is a resistance in how I am asking for a change in bend, so I will try something different to create the bend and then maintain it, I'm learning to watch for the pre-signal that something is going to change so that I can catch it before the change happens. I can feel Minka's back come up under me as I learn to ride more from my thighs. The list goes on and on. As a matter of fact, at one point on Saturday, I had the feeling of her back sucked up under my seat, like my glutes were two vacuum hoses pulling her up, and I actually looked back to see if she was lifting her tail to poop, and she wasn't!
    I have a long-term goal of being the student you can showcase as the one you're really proud to have put your stamp on. I want to absorb as much knowledge as you have to convey. I know that you are one of the few instructors that can take me to where I want to go, and even further than I had previously let myself hope. That said, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the process. There is a thrill of discovery that you can't understand unless you want the end result as badly as we do. I love learning. Period. I love to learn, and I love to facilitate learning when I am able. That is why I know that I have finally found the long-term goal that fits me, because I am enjoying the path to the summit.

This email reminded me of my progress with Axel through the hunt. We are going very fast, but also need to stop sometimes very fast. He prefers to canter rather than trot which works well since I ride him in a close contact and just side down for him to stop. I’ve come to realize that if I do any down transition correctly, I can basically throw him the reins because he’s responded to my stopping my hip movement, closing my upper thigh and he gives his neck and comes to a stop. Thanks so much for teaching me to ride with my body and not my arms/hands. I still have ways to go, but I have the basics thanks to you.

Subject: RE: You are riding Sammie again today.

That horse is good for me. She lets me know when I am "yelling" at her with my cues. I am learning a ton from you and the lessons. Funny how your horses can teach you so much.

On a positive note ... Pretty soon, [Turner] was flexing, bringing up his haunches and we had a FABULOUS ride. I figured out how to feel that he was coming up and using his back ... He lifted up his belly and I felt the saddle fill up my pelvis. So now I ride to get him to loosen up and bring his back up. That's easier for me to feel than when he's bringing his back legs really underneath him. I so love that guy. I can't wait to see what he's like in another 1-2 yrs. Thanks to you, I feel like I got the foundation that I so missing before. I'm so grateful for that opportunity.

Dang ... I just re-read the e-mail I just sent you and noticed the fact that I did not mention your contribution to my relationship with Beau. I must tell you that I would not have such a strong connection with Beau without you! Thank You again, again, and ... again for the lessons! You give me so much confidence in the saddle! (and on the ground!).

Jim, I’ve thought about you almost daily, each time I ride Turner and wanted to wait to write until I could send you pictures. But then I get busy and forget to take the pictures. So I thought I’d just try to describe what he’s doing now.
    You were absolutely right (big surprise – not) that as he matured his mane would pick a side. So as I’ve worked to get him to bend and round, he’s only got one lock of mane about C2 that goes to the opposite side. I think I know that means I still don’t have him supple at the vertebrae, but I’ve had a breakthrough in keeping my hands quieter and he is responding very well to the change! I think, I’ll get him supple at that point as well and we’re currently working on his coming forward with his hind leg at the trot, supporting himself and getting him to reach into the bit. I’m so delighted that I can feel these things, which before I’d read about, but didn’t really have a clue. I credit it to your getting me grounded!
    I’m working with a dressage instructor who unfortunately isn’t as good as you about working on my position, but between the basics that you taught me and my harping at her to look at my movements, we are making sure progress.
    I wish you were closer to keep me on target, but I’m sure grateful that I was able to ride with you for long enough to internalize what to expect from my body and tune into what that would mean to the horse. Thanks again!

I'm back from inner Mongolia. It was beautiful riding the horses in the mountains and the grasslands. I had fun just letting my wild little man gallop like crazy, which makes me think that it was pretty unsafe if I hadn't ridden before (and the farmer who put me on the horse thought I had never ridden) and my horse was extremely frisky.
    I think the things you taught me in the short while finally sunk in my brain because I got the horse to pay attention to me just by pushing down in my shoulders through my seat when I wanted him to slow down or stop ... amazing!! I'll send you pictures when I get my computer set up.

As for my practicing, I rode on Monday and yesterday. The difference is amazing. Minka isn't used to my legs being that far back, so when we first started out on Monday, we did a bit of zig-zagging back and forth before she figured out that both legs were back there, and it meant go straight instead of sideways. Yesterday I tried using my seat a little more, like what you were showing Patrice with leaning back just a little bit, and for the first time Minka chewed the reins out of my hands at the walk by really reaching down into the contact (which I was able to maintain)!
    You can let Sarah know that "quite happy with my lesson" is the understatement of the year. I've made phenomenal progress with only one lesson! I can't wait for Saturday!

Jim, Just wanted to say thank you for being so kind and generous with you time today. I was having a crappy time trying to get coordinated (and probably driving Cheers crazy), not really riding but rather just perching there, but at least I got to take home some pointers that really made sense and were very helpful. Now I just have to do it and stop thinking about it. You and Lisa are exceptionally good at explaining things and I appreciate that because I know it can be hard to do.
    Tina Fong

Jim, I understand being a competent horse rider takes much time, patience, and a pretty good handle on yourself. I have a desire to learn. I don't attempt anything unless I fully intend to succeed ...
    These articles are super (Zen in the Art of Dressage). They are informative and humbling. We will be reading them for sometime ...
    Today I had the best ride on Belle I have ever had. I am practicing what you teach me. I need to practice being calm because you are correct [that] Belle knows what I am feeling. I walked her in the arena today speaking calmly but firmly to her before mounting her. I mounted her and she walked more calmly than I have ever experienced. I practiced stopping and backing and also brought her to a jog. She was calm. I sat back and practiced my my pelvic glides as I rode. We were out there just the two of us ...
    Well the above was yesterday. Last night when I went to bed I thought to myself, will I remember and do what I did riding Belle next time???? Today I am still savoring the time Belle and I had together yesterday. I think I will for sometime to come. It was an intimate moment we shared.
    Again, I thank you, Jim.
    Warmest regards,

Jim, what a wonderful time we had this afternoon. thank you for your time, patience and non-judgementalness (is that a word?). I look forward to gaining more knowledge and confidence with your help. Best of all we now have reverse and we are unstuck. I feel as though we have a direction to go and "stuff" to work on until we meet again. Loved your web site, lots of fun photos and great info. I have been reading Sally Swift's book on the recommendation of one of my roping friends! She gives great images to work with. Thanks a million,

Has anyone told you lately just how terrific you are! You are the best!!!! Thank you so much for everything that you have done for me and for Aimsley. I was on such a high when I got home on Saturday and I can't wait to ride tomorrow. Show season is definitely in my plans for next summer. I will work hard and be patient in the process.

Hi Jim, I recently met you at the Bits and Spurs ride and review show. I had the quick little morgan horse and the 4-year-old chestnut TB mare. I wanted to tell you that I was really happy with my lessons from you and I have been using the advice you gave me with very good results. Have a good day!
    Cindy Desmarais

My latest journal entry about the last lesson. 7/20/2006. Took some pictures. Jim emphasized bending the leg more to keep my @#*)&@(# right leg in the proper position (parallel to horse rather than sticking out). This resulted in my heels being up, as I couldn’t keep them down in that overbent position. However, this exercise must have helped, as I noticed during my long trail ride Saturday morning. Of course, Reggie being wider than Shaz makes it easier for me to keep my feet in the proper position. Great work on the ‘elastic elbow’ and how to obtain an effective, soft and elastic contact. I need a lot of practice! I feel somewhat challenged on how to obtain a correct ‘ramener’ without losing any impulsion. It was so much easier when I didn’t know any better. Jim spoiled it for me again!
    Patrick Mawet

Jim, Thanks for the great lesson - what a learning experience! I have so much to learn, but I look forward to the journey!

... wanted to tell you Maura really liked her lesson with you yesterday. Can't stop talking about how much she learned, how well you explain stuff. She is looking forward to next week!

… so, I’m feeling good in the saddle again *grin* and I’m ok with where things are going. It’s really nice to ride Lace and feel her relaxing under me. I think it is the way I’m riding more than anything else because I have felt her change in the last 2 weeks. Her history is that she’s very sensitive and fearful (baggage) yet she seems more relaxed and confident recently. Thanks!

I wish you could be a fly on the wall sometimes when we are in the barn just after you leave. Lori H. just loves your lessons and always comments that she has never had a coach that was able to help her body position so much. Jim H. is riding sooooooooo much better. He led us on a trail ride last week and I was directly behind him. He rode straight in the middle of his tack, kept his horse forward and reaching for the bit and was soft and supple at rising trot. Bravo. Kendra always loves her rides. My horse went pretty good with you on Sunday, then Monday we trail rode for an hour (Jim H in the lead) and Normandy was sooooo good. Wednesday I rode with Kim Von Hoppfgarten and Normandy was really good, we discussed our lesson with you and Kim echoed what you said about controlled strengthening. It was great. Then on Sunday I rode with Lisa Dussome and my frickin horse was awesome. So long story short, when the hell are ya coming back? Canter is really coming along, walk is damn good, etc. I have to ride him so consistently and It's really exhausting sometimes, but he's getting it. Anyway, just wanted to give you the update.

Wow! Yesterday's lesson was packed with learning! I wrote three full pages of notes on everything I did and what we discussed. I love how you have so many different ways (depending on what the rider needs) to achieve the intended goal. Again, the sign of a superior teacher. See you tomorrow!

I can’t bear to miss any more lessons and marvel at how much I learn. I can’t believe that a 20 minute “walk” lesson would be so educational and tiring. We’re so lucky to have Jim D. coming to our barn!

Hi Jim, Monday morning . . . Alayne Blickle remembered you and specifically said (in voicemail) that you are “a fine, fine, fine instructor,” and went on to say that you helped both her and her husband quite a bit, many years ago…. I could tell that she had fond memories and a strong respect for your work. Nice to know you’re appreciated, isn’t it?

A very belated and huge thank you for your help and moral support at show last Sunday. Obviously, it made a big difference. Victor is looking forward to Monday's lesson. Hammer and anvil* are better – worked real well yesterday – used it on everyone (horses), they say thank you!!

*One leg is the hammer, the active leg, moving the horse's leg. The other is the anvil, passive like an anvil, but working just as hard as the hammer, bending the metal (horse) in the middle. If a rider is riding one-legged, the horse will swing his hindquarters, rather than bending, so you need to ride with two legs to get the desired result.

When I first started riding with you, I came because I needed help with my jumping, or so I thought ... actually, I needed help with keeping Eli from running away with me on cross country ... turned out the problem was because I had no seat and legs!! We went back to basic dressage and (eventually) a whole lot of other problems got fixed ... what a wonder! Thanks!!

Jim & Lisa, We had a great time! We really learned a lot and cannot thank you both for your patience. We feel our confidence growing each week. Thanks again!
    Curt, Lori and Leif

You make me laugh, that's hard to do. I mean, REALLY laugh... tickles in my tummy, tears in my eyes, outloud giggly laughter. Thank you!

She arrived in great condition. I’ll take some photos tomorrow but it doesn’t look like she lost any weight and she was totally perky when she got off the truck. I’m so pleased with the way you two took such excellent care of her!!!! (Check out her tail!!! People actually thought she was an Arab!!)
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Pennsylvania

I really got a lot out of the article ("Colonel Carde in the US") when I printed it out and compared it to the pictures on the web. This just reinforces that one has to be flexible when to use certain movements. I didn’t get that until I started working with you – thanks! ... looking forward to riding with you today.

Loved the "When Things Go Wrong" [by Dr. Thomas Ritter] article. I have already forwaded to several people. I preach these things until I'm blue in the face, and I just get looked at like I have three heads or something. Fantastic writing.
    See ya!

Where do I start???? Pretty much every lesson is full of 'AHA' moments. I kind of have to challenge myself to absorb it all!!
    I was very impressed with what I saw when you rode her. The little 'baby' piaffe (BTW, I have seen some 'GP' horse with piaffes that were not much better - but that is a story for another day - I am just being observant) was cool, but the beautiful transition into collected canter really knocked my socks off! That was waaaaay cool!
    I immediately wondered "when do I get to ride like her that?". The answer: in time - we are working on it! We eat an elephant one bite at the time.
    There was some tension. IMHO two reasons: (1) she needs to get stronger to be more relaxed doing this more demanding stuff. (2) some resistances due to the normal operator imperfections contribute to the tension. But, she can do it! So much for blaming the horse all the time!
    I can see that both (1) and (2) will improve as we keep working. However, great to have a vision of what is to come!
    DeKunffy says we are in the age of super horses / minimal riders. I wonder what the age of super riders / average horses would look like?! Probably much fewer horses would keep changing owners because they are just "not good enough for dressage."
    Patrick Mawet

I thought you might like this article ["Circle of Learning", by Dr. Thomas Ritter] I found on . . . life??!! This was a great article!
    This line was especially true: "Of course, I understand." Three years later, it hits us during a ride: "That's what the teacher was talking about. Now I Understand."
    I was told all day long to "sit deep in the saddle" or "push the horse forward with my seat" and didn't really get what it meant until Monday (not to inflate your ego and disrupt your zen state!)

Thanks again for the lesson. It's better than a therapist!

I have devoured the books and videos of Sally Swift (what a grand old gal!) and my lessons were with one of your very own, a lovely woman by the name of Karen Fitzgerald ... I have seen you instruct at Emerald Lane (during Karen's time off for motherhood) and at several shows over the years and in my opinion you are one of the finest riders out there. I also like your hard scrabble New York sense of humor. That's it in a nutshell.

Jim, We had a great time! Matter of fact - we are more excited about riding - than at any time before ... Please don't think I'm always that "intense" ... we have spent a lot of money on lessons, and not got as much insight as with you (in 1 hour). I was so intent not to miss a word you said, I may have come across a bit rigid. We want to become horsemen, not just riders.
    Do you teach jumping ... if we're on trails and a situation arises?
    See you Saturday,
     C. F.

Hi, Wanted to send you a brief line and say thank you once again for my lesson. I like to think about what I have learned each time. It is so nice to finish and have "food for thought" before the next go around.
    Tonight I am contemplating the magic of my elbows. I never have really given them much thought before. Hands versus elbows (and arms) - very interesting. Also thinking about the proper way to rein back.
    It is funny, I caught myself practicing to sit properly (like a rider) at Maura's band concert in the stands the other night. There are a lot of those moments where I think sit up straight and feel that core. That will serve me well as I age.
    Have a good weekend,

I really enjoyed watching that lesson last night. Kelsey has been riding Cirrus since she was 9 yrs old. They both have a lot of ability, but seem to spend much of their time arguing with each other. It was nice to see them work together.

Jim, Thank you for a terrific lesson today and thank you for believing in me and knowing that I could do it! It is a thrill to be able to ride Aimsley properly. I think he will learn to like the fact that he lets me know so quickly when I am not communicating correctly. I will use that trait to our advantage. You get all the credit, thanks again!

Jim, I've checked out your website and was very impressed. I've known you for years and yet, I've just learned your background in dressage. Not saying that I haven't realized that you are the one instructor who has given me the most and best information about the relationship between me and my horse. I've touted you every chance I've gotten. By the way, great picture of you and Shy. Love his reach!

Jim, Thanks for the lesson today. Much help – lots of things to work on. Everyone else was impressed also. They want to know how you can get the horse to do that? I tell them you are truly gifted and very good at what you do.
    Karen Fitzgerald

Hi Jim, this is the boss mare, Mary Phelps. Tracey told me you just called regarding liability insurance. I check out your website and was VERY impressed. What a quality professional way of portraying your business on line. I just wanted to let you know that. I am very close friends with Deborah Hausman who you must see from time to time at shows. Thanks for contacting us, and whether you select us or not to be your agent, we wish you the best, and please let me know if we can be of any further assistance.
    Mary Phelps
    A Markel Equine Insurance Specialist
    386-985-1429 fax 386-985-4657

Jim, You touch each and every one of your students. I have a feeling you've ruined me for any other coach!!! You have to move to Pittsburgh as I'm never gonna find a coach here that's anywhere near your caliber of teacher!!!

Master chief?
Or thighmaster chief?

That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the thighs to suffer
The burning agony of outraged adductors?
Or to take legs against a steed of trouble
And by opposing end him.
To shy, to spin:
To spin, perchance to fall -- ay, there's the rolfer!
For in that spin of death what back pain may come?

Alas, poor Tique! I knew him, DiMilte.
There is special providence in the fall of a rider.
If it be now, 'tis not sufficient grip of thigh
If it be not to come, 'tis sitting on tailbones that did the trick
If it be not now, oh it's coming soon, believe me!
The readiness is all.

(Hammond's Soliloquy)

Jim, You know, no matter what you do, times of questioning are inevitable. But I have found your help very valuable. I have taken lessons most of my life, through Pony Club, 4-H, clinics and other instructors, and you are the very best at helping me in such a way that the next day it's still with me, loud and clear, and I can work more confidently on my own. Oh, if there were only more hours in a day and money in the pocketbook. Have a great day, Jim, and may God bless the work that you do!

Jim, I attended Prescott College from fall 1971 through spring 1973. While there I worked at the stables feeding, fixing fence, and constructing jumps. Since college I have continued with exposure to horses, packing supplies for the forest service, pasture boarding Thoroughbreds on our Illinois farm, selling hay to horse folks, and occasionally riding my big walking horse gelding until he passed away at 39 years. I am currently working with a 5-year-old filly that we raised from foal but was not broke to halter until last summer. I got to thinking of your instruction at Prescott and found your Web site. I have ordered a couple of texts from your recommended reading list for some assistance regarding working with a young horse and, in my case, an aging and not very skilled rider. I wanted you to know that I learned a couple of things from you 35 years ago and hope that you continue to enjoy teaching.

Jim, You are a great role model for Grace. I am very grateful you are in her world!

Hi Jim, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed my lesson today (despite the effects of cold remedies). Made some notes when I got home, you gave me lots of new info. I truly appreciate the way you explain things and the reasoning behind everything. All very logical and it amazes me that I haven't been given some of this info before. Hal was very impressed with the changes he saw in Aimsley today. He seemed surprised by Aimsley's ability to do the things requested of him. He had questions about Aimsley's past training and how it pertains to now. Anyway, just walking on Aimsley and watching him round up and want to please me (because it is a good feeling on his back) is a big deal to me. So new and different and exciting.
    See you next week.

Hi Jim, I appreciate your work with Dionna and I at Bridlewood. D had some lovely moments tonite. Strider and I are improving with your coaching. We appreciate you and your work. And the "special" instruction was an added benefit. Would you mind sending the contact info for the saddle fitter you suggested?
    Thank you and Happy Holidays,
    Elizabeth Klein

Hi Jim, Just to let you know, I really appriciate the time I spent with you while my family was in the states. You helped me learn to love dressage, and now it intrigues me all the more! I am working towards my Pony Club B test - I'll take it in December. I'm heading back to the states after my senior year - I'm going to a boarding school in Taiwan . . . I would really like to come back and start riding with you again!

. . . because you are honest . . . that's why I've always enjoyed keeping in touch because I've always thought you were one [who is] doing the right thing. That is why I've tried to send you students over the years. Because I felt you'd really try to teach them . . .

Jim, Thanks for everything you've done for me. You are a truly great instructor. I've enjoyed every moment and learned so much!

Jim, I have been with a total of 4 trainers in a short time and you are the only one that makes sense to me. I can breathe a good breath of relief now that my Sandy and I have found you. I have gotten more out of my two lessons with you than 6 MOS of lessons from elsewhere....thank you for working so hard for me to GET IT !!!!! You are literally an answer to a prayer....I am honored to be one of your students.
    Sallie Kowalski

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