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Dolly Hannon Clinic 2020-Report from Participants

Judi DeVore, Krista Nobilo, Cindy Peterson, Barb Progess

The clinic was held at Barb Progess’s lovely facility due to our recognised show being cancelled, and she was a very gracious hostess making all horses, riders and auditors feel at home. Dolly gave each rider a lesson. She also involved the auditors with what she was seeing and why she was having the riders perform various movements, and the reasons behind the rider position corrections she was making. Several of the riders and auditors who particpated have listed the multitude of things they learned during the clinic to share with those of you who were unable to attend. There are so many tips she gave but these are some of the highlights.

Judi DeVore and Believe WS (Twiggy)


Day 1 started off a mess for me because my horse got spooked before I got on so I had to lunge her for a long time to calm her down. As a result we ceded the first rider position to Krista and her horse Pepe. Even after I was able to ride Twiggy, I was not, in Dolly’s words, “the boss mare”. She said that although my mare was talented she also has a very strong character and needs to have more submission. She stated she doesn’t often like to use that word “submission” because for some people it means getting really rough. However, in my case, my corrections were not strong enough to let the mare know I meant business. In her words “Mares are sensitive and opinionated and they will easily train you. You have to be careful to let them know you are in charge without being a bully—be a “benevolent leader."

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One of Twiggy’s resistances is to occasionally go against the bit when asked to do an upward transition. Dolly said you can be clear by closing your fingers and making them move into the contact, and sometimes moving the bit in their mouth a bit if they resist against it. 

Additionally, my timing was also a bit slow in making corrections when the mare did not respond promptly to my aids. “Be clear with your expectations and discipline promptly if your request isn’t answered”.

Also be aware if you are using a whip for corrections that it is actually hitting its target. My whip which is regulation length was in Dolly’s word “really beating up my saddle pad” so in essence Twiggy was not receiving the corrections I gave her. This is where for training purposes you might want a whip longer than regulation size. 

One of my favorite exercises we did to get Twiggy moving from my inside leg to outside hand was shoulder-in on a circle at the trot. I had to be very insistent upon this move and get her listening to the inside leg which she often pushed into instead of away from. Doing the shoulder-in on a circle kept me using my inside leg and insisting she move away from it and into the outside rein. Dolly also said “do a thousand 10-meter circles”. 

Two other interesting comments she made during my ride was from a judges perspective. It is hard to see a shoulder-in when you are going away from the judge so try for a little more angle than is a true shoulder-in. Coming toward the judge they can see the front legs better so then you can do a true 3- track shoulder-in. The opposite is true for haunches in. Moving away from the jusdge you can have three tracks and be ok, but moving toward the judge you should try to attain four tracks, since it is harder for the judge to see the haunches displaced to the inside. 

My rides with Dolly were fabulous because she helped me realize the details I was letting slip. Not having crisp transitions when I ask will make it harder to move to the next level up. I also need to challenge my mare with a little more challenging and varied work to prepare her for the movements to come. Although she was firm with her instruction she did it in such a fun and teasing way that it made the lesson extremely enjoyable. If you missed this one, do not miss the next, if we are lucky enough to get her back, either as a rider or auditor. She is a true educator and everyone learned so much. 

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Krista Nobilo and Pepe


Day 1: Pepe was initially a little stiff and had some irregular steps, we laughed and agreed we can all relate to that! He worked out of it. She focused first and foremost on the purity of the working gaits. She said in the beginning he was not tracking up in the trot, but by the end, he was. Perhaps the biggest take home the first day was that her observation was ‘you’re working too hard!’, we worked on what he responded to in order to get him sharper off my driving aids. If you’re working too hard at the lower levels, by crikey you will struggle as you progress to FEI, because you simply cannot keep adding more leg! Her advice was if I’m planning to show second level in 2021, consider focusing on counter canter and don’t push the changes of lead quite so much. Be aware that once a horse learns changes he or she thinks it’s easier to change rather than stay on the counter lead.

Day 2: I said ‘okay’ tell me when and how to feel where we should be at for ‘collected trot’ at second level. Dolly said once you’ve achieved pure working gaits, half halt, half halt and ‘shorten your reins!’, she said people pay good money to hear from the professionals to ‘shorten your reins!’ – this made me think of Charlotte Dujardin—“short reins win championships!” 


We proceeded to work through the movements in second level, and she said if we can maintain and achieve the movements in second level (ie Shoulders in, travers, rein back, medium trot, half turn on haunches, counter canter) this would be an adequate representation of the required collected work. It isn’t the collection required for 4th level, but it’s seen as appropriate for 2nd level. 

I was really chuffed (editor’s note: that is a New Zealand word for please) that she agreed Pepe has a sweet disposition (apart from his occasional rodeo outbreak), smart brain, cute face and was ever so willing! 

Exercises to sharpen up:
Long side, trot, walk halt, turn on forehand at quarter marker, trot off IMMEDIATELY Repeat other long side. 

Exercises to open up a tight shoulder:
20m circle at walk. Turn in to face the center of circle, Leg yield on circle.....this helps open up the shoulders. 

Canter – 10m circle at quarter markers and then repeat 10m circle at A or C and then into the simple loop counter (m-x-k) 

Canter leg yields – down center line and leg yield out to long side.


Lots to think about! 

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Barb Progess and Buttercup


Dolly taught me about the " Tent Thumb". We all know about keeping our thumbs up but she said Spanish Riding School teaches the Tent Thumb to keep the riders' hands soft.

The rider holds her hands on the reins normally with the thumb up. But instead of keeping it flat (which interferes with the squeezing of the fingers) the rider should kink the thumb so that it is bent when it holds the reins between the thumb and the forefinger.

Try it. . . you will find that when the thumb is bent you can more smoothly squeeze ALL the fingers in a peristoltic/squeezing motion. When the thumb is flat the movement is stronger, jerkier and centered around the last 2 fingers it tends to roll your wrist in.

Cindy Petersen-Auditor 


I enjoyed the opportunity to audit the Dolly Hannon clinic this past Saturday, September 26, 2020. Not only did I pick up some great tips for my self but I got to watch some amazing riders, people that love their horses and want to honor them by being the best rider they can be, this after all is what builds a true partnership between horse and rider. As Charles De Kunffy wrote "A horse knows from birth how to pick up its feet and how to bend and how to piaffe across the field, it's our job to teach them to do it when we want them to.


Dolly was wonderful with the riders but she was also very tuned into the auditors, she spoke to us as if in a classroom sitting asking, does that make sense to everyone "why I'm telling her to bring her foot back past the girth to help bend the horse in the corner" and

does anyone have any questions, please ask.' 

This went on the entire time I was there. So many thanks to Dolly but also to those riders that paid a fee to ride. While you were learning so was I. 

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