Positive, Progressive and Natural

Well friends I have been enjoying the suddenly warm and sunny weather here in California. Couldn’t have happened at a better time (if you read my last post). Nothing like a gloriously sunny day to help me get my nose out of a book, or put the vaccuum down and run outside to play with horses. It can also really brighten your attitude. ;)

So this past week found me doing just that… really PLAYING with my horses versus tweeking tasks or isolations or worrying about goals. Looking at my horses with POSITIVE appreciation for where they are at in this very moment in time… and where I am at too. Talking to them about the little things that make the biggest difference. Jane (aka Twinnie a fellow blogger) posted on my blog a great reminder comment from our Fast Track experience.

“The words of John Barr keep coming back to me – ‘you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now’… “

Jane is also struggling with submitting her L3 Freestyle audition. That is another beautiful part of PNH, the sense of belonging to a family, that you are not alone in your frustrations nor are you alone in celebrating your successes! Pat’s saying about having an Attitude that is “Positive, Progressive, and Natural” was running through my mind and caused me to search for the article that one of my Fast Track coaches Molly Sanders wrote on this very subject.

” I decided to be ok with where I was and turned the knob with conviction. It was much like taking off a pair of sunglasses and having the world take on a brighter hue. I felt free to experiment, free to acknowledge the things my horse offered, I felt natural. The only place I could be in my journey of horsemanship was where I was… and that’s when things really started clicking together for me.”

I also remembered a few more good old PNH phrases such as “Personal growth is rarely convenient or comfortable. Whether it’s learning how to remain positive, or struggling to be progressive enough, and above all else staying natural in the pursuit of my dream. And another good one I heard several times during Fast Track that I may not quote just right but I think you’ll get the meaning- “we (coaches or your horse) may not teach you what you WANT to learn but rather what you NEED to learn.” Oh boy isn’t that true.

So early last week with Dove I slowed way way way …..way… way down and took 30 -40 mins to hang out, exhale, relax, rub on her, ask ever so small for her to put her head down, or “think” about taking one step backwards before doing ANYTHING else. Anyone watching may have thought we were just standing there doing nothing. ;) My little RBI needed to reconnect at this level after all we learned last year. Phew, I think I needed this too. The result? By the end of the week we were really playing even with the tough stuff like being particular about FQ yields and the quality of response when porcupining Dove’s chest (her confident & dominant nature shows up in her Zone 2! LOL) We found the path to positive progression in a natural & FUN way.

And isn’t it funny how that change in my attitude flowed over to my other two horses as well! ALL 3 of them offered some of the coolest stuff yesterday EVER! Just when you think you are being positive or progressive or natural, your horse teaches you how much more there still is to learn…. and if you step up to the challenge then they reward your slightest try!

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Good, Better, Best, Never Let it Rest, Get your Good Better and your Better Best!

It’s already two weeks into the new year and I am still planning (ok plotting really) my goals, aspirations, and dreams for 2011. What are my horses and I doing Good…. what can we do to get it Better ……on our way to doing it Best? Now mind you I gave up making “New Year’s Resolutions” long ago, instead I greet the New Year with a blank slate and promptly start making lists all over it. LOL. And I am a serious list maker my friends. I am even prone to buying new stationary and cute little purse books so I can make lists wherever, whenever the opportunity arises. Oh just look at the colorful stuff I found at the supermarket! It even has bling so of course I could not resist putting it in my cart next to the eggs, ortega chiles, vegetable broth and water chestnuts. Uh yeah I had a weird little shopping list yesterday. All the more reason I had room for the diva-like stationary! It is a serious addiction I have… making lists. I think the reason I do it is that I get alot of satisfaction out of crossing the items off! So there you have it….. my confession for the year. Phew glad that is over with, now we can get on to horsemanship goals, aspirations and dreams, the stuff a brand new shiny year is made for.

As I sat down and started writing my horsemanship goals what came out surprised me….. what sat before me was a list of house and garden chores. What? … where is all the fun horsemanship stuff? Hmmm… my list contained those naggy things…… like decluttering an overflowing clothes closet (because you bought some new riding jeans!) ordering a part for my truck, or the piles of papers that really need to be tossed or filed away. Am I to take care of those nagging responsibilities before Kimmy can go out and play? Funny how the brain works at times. Alrighty then, I created my “to-tackle” list. LOL I am in linebacker mode. This is the side effect of Sunday football playing in the background yesterday. So wouldn’t you know it, while I was decluttering the office this weekend I found the latest Better Homes and Gardens magazine- what was the headline article? “Cool, Calm, and Decluttered: 25 Ways to Pare Down and Get Organized for a Fresh New Year.” How did they know? ;)

While I was knee deep in office debris, I also realized that sometimes I can feel this way about my horsemanship goals too. Are there tasks, or areas that are calling out to be worked on first before we can get to our fun list and become in the words of BHG- cool, calm and decluttered? And don’t misunderstand, my horses and I have no problem ditching our plan for the day and have some good old fashioned fun spontaneous play. And I don’t mean that I am putting goals before principles but rather that I need to take a moment and really look at where we are at in relation to the bigger goal. Embrace where we are at instead of thinking about what we still haven’t accomplished. And begin there. Perhaps it is all these books I am reading in preparation for the 1 Star Instructor course that’s got me thinking about truth, transparency and trust, or my own desire to be super prepared and get the most out of that adventure, my old damned determined ambitious side was poking her head out! LOL. She really craves knowledge and organization. And she can sometimes be a real pill. :P

So I had to ask myself, what is hanging me up or holding me back? What am I secretly obsessing over? Ok here it is…… submitting our Level 3 Freestyle Audition. There I said it……it’s out there. I admit that I would liked that to have been done, passed, checked off by the end of 2010. I felt I had plenty of time….. ah but that was people time not my horse’s time. And my friends, there is my second confession, treating my horsemanship like a “to do” list that I was longing to check off! Good grief! I know that my horse & I have some rather important mental, emotional and physical things to sort through in regards to riding truly in free-style… the kind of free-style that I dream about …. riding bareback and bridleless ….on the beach no less. Now I know that is not part of the audition, but it is part of the pursuit of my dream. Some of the important ingredients surfaced during our Fast Track experience last June while others have been around for awhile and thankfully my mentors help me sort through them and have really given me permission to slow down and become fascinated by them. Really it’s just a little nagging feeling of falling behind the goal of the “green string”, with a bit of impatience thrown in -w
hen will I get back to the recombine part and play with our freestyle audition?

So I acknowledged that with a little re-org of my time I could satisfy my desire for more knowledge, tackle some of the more glaring organizational needs which would result in more relaxation and free up my playful imaginative side….. and then I’d be in the right attitude to start to write down my horsemanship goals, aspirations and dreams for 2011. Yes that’s right…. the first Key to Success…… Attitude. It’s the process not the product…. it’s not about the goals. LOL! The list can go on. What my friends have you learned about yourself, your attitude, your feelings, your response to writing down your goals, dreams and aspirations for the new year?
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As this year ends and a new one begins….

Many thoughts ran through my head today while I played with my horses for the last time in 2010. We all had a great time while I checked out where we were with various things. After the final play session I found myself pondering over what lessons I have learned from each of my horses this past year.

With Dove I learned the power of relaxation.
This has been a topic we have been exploring for some time. Dove came to me a bracey, racey pony with picture perfect bad banana posture- the perfect Parelli cartoon of a RBE- yep that was my Dove. This past year we have played with asking her to lower her head down as a first response when she gets tense or worried. We played with this as she stood still, at a walk, then trot, on a circle, on a straight line, while riding, while playing with transitions and even while changing direction. Then we added moving her HQ out and creating a soft bend in her ribs while she moved. What I believe Pat refers to as traveling straight on the circle. When Dove finds relaxation as her first response the possibilities are endless. As this year closes we played with the beginnings of flying lead changes online on a Fig 8. Whoot Whoot! This is HUGE my friends for my little blonde pony was doing this playfully tonight. I mean it, she was having fun versus all tense and bracey. She was flicking her pretty blonde head at me as we played our little game of tag. When I unhaltered her she hung around, lowered her head, exhaled and then offered her version of spanish walk to me! We played with a little left and then right leg pawing the ground as we walked together. Friends there is nothing you can’t do when the horse becomes a part of you! Thank you Pat Parelli ….thank you!

With Spice, I learned the power of my belly button. LOL…. no kidding!
Leave it to Spice to point out the obvious! She is quite direct my little spanish filly. While we played tonight Spice didn’t want to trot let alone canter. Over this past year she & I have been exploring ways to elicit a soft canter depart (minus the head flick) while we play with transitions. Spice came to me with a good dose of LBE in her. Although she can get unconfident and big when worried and use her big shoulders against you, when all is right in the world she hovers between a LBI and a LBE. One minute she’s asking What’s in it for ME? and then the next second she can be a bit playfully naughty. So of course tonight I learned another lesson from Miss Spice. We were ending our session with some Fig 8′s. As I mentioned earlier she wasn’t keen on cantering tonight so I thought why push it. So instead we played with trotting the Fig 8 and speeding up to a fast trot as we changed directions. As I ran through my phases she started buck jumping into a canter as she changed directions. With a 50/50 chance staring at me I decided to reward Spice’s buck jump “try” because frankly she did speed up – from a trot to a canter. The results were hilarious. As soon as I said the word good she stopped immediately and then looked at me…. you know the “where’s my cookie?” look. We repeated this a few times and what I soon learned was that she was responding off of my belly button. My stick never left the ground. As she’d round the cone and I ran backwards, the minute I began to move forward facing her she was buck jumping and changing directions. I played with trying to not bring my life up so much as we changed directions and the results were better but not great yet. I think she plans to play this with me for another 6 sessions until I get it. LOL.

With Cherokee I learned the power of patterns to improve confidence.
When it came time for us to play tonight the sun had gone down and fireworks could be heard in the background. Needless to say my little gelding was quite uptight and looked like the Parelli cartoon of the RBI complete with puckered lips poor guy. I knew he needed time to be quiet but also needed help moving his feet constructively or else he’d explode in a frenzy. So we played with the Fig 8 for almost our entire session. When we tried a little circling he was gone- no connection- lost in his worried mind. So back to our Fig 8 pattern we’d head and soon we could change to a nice falling leaf or backwards S pattern. I ended on a good note and we headed back to his herd. Once back at the hay bar he was relaxed. So we played with another pattern- were we ride point to point up and down the lane. Ah the power of patterns as a place to go mentally, emotionally and physically and relax. Chero has taught me to see the pattern and use it to help him move to a more confident state. And from there we can do amazing things!

Well my friends the New Year is fast approaching. Tonight as midnight rolls around I will be dreaming of all the adventures to come in the New Year and all the lessons my horses still have to teach me!
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Ok I just HAD to share this

My younger mare Spice saw me set up my video camera the other day. I tape video of Dove & I for our monthly mentor sessions with Rachel Jessop, so Spice has come to know that this camera has my focus and has importance.

This day Spice was quite fixated on “touching” my camera. I had to shoo her way several times. When I sat down with Dove to play with bridling and had my backed turned….. well you’ll see what Spice had on her mind. LOL. I do love this horse of mine’s mind. She cracks me up EVERY day with her looks and antics and challenges me to be better.

I left the original audio so you can hear her too! Hilarious. I had to wonder if the “goods” I was giving Dove were in Spice’s head rewarding HER for investigating my camera. The world does revolve around Spice afterall.

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My amazing little gelding Cherokee!

These past few weeks we have had some good horsin’ around weather and then some not so good. It has been a time to take advantage of both! What? Take advantage of not so good weather? Have you lost it? Well maybe…. but then again I am an avid student of Parelli and those 3 Laws keep ringing in my ears…..
1. Put the Relationship FIRST
2. Foundation before Specialization
3. Never ending self improvement (for me AND my horses)

Last week we had freezing weather all week- note to all I am in the San Francisco Bay Area in California so anything below 40 degrees is freezing… really…ask my plants they are all droopy and black spotted poor things. So when the thermometer hit 32 degrees we almost fainted. LOL. As for my ponies they are super fuzzy and enjoying the extra flake of hay. Then this week we were deluged by rain, the flooding kind… coz again we are in California where the summers are hot and dry and so when the rain hits the dirt swells….. oozes really…. all down the road, and the gutters fill…. ok you get the picture.

Now what’s a Parelli student to do in this yucky weather besides reading books, watching videos and dreaming of warm sunny days filled with glorious trail riding? Pull out my rain slickers, muck boots, long johns, thinsulate gloves, and warm caps (all my friends who live in the snow country are laughing at me right now- I can hear you!!) and play with the list of items on the new ParelliConnect.com site! There are several tasks that with a little imagination I can do under the dry cover of my horse’s shelters.

So we have had fun and heaps of progress this week on the simple but not easy things such as lowering your head with only phase 1 while the rain and wind is pelting our shelters, or using a hand held massager to simulate clipping ears while I sit on a bucket, leading by the ___(fill in the blank) and the list goes on. Plus just think of all the undemanding time we can spend scratching…. ah my horses were jockeying for first position on that one! Staying warm and dry is such motivation to take all the time we need. In fact time whizzes by on days like these.

Then today the sun peeked out and I almost stumbled trying to get to the barn as fast as I could. I decided to check out how Cherokee was doing and so we moseyed on down to the arena. After some fun galloping on a circle- let me help you move your feet (RB moment) we had fun experimenting with our ParelliConnect task list. His progress floored me. Being particular without being critical I found that we still need more sessions to improve his confidence in some areas and straightness in others before we “tick” them off, but overall WOW! Here he was trotting back to me from a Yo-Yo on a 22′ with his ears pricked on me! And there he was trying so hard to allow me to hold his tongue or scratch the inside of his precious ears. So why should I have been so surprised to find him to be excellent transport as we rode from the arena to his pen? Well because when we followed the hay cart up the road this time he trotted the whole way with his ears totally on me! And it was his idea!! The fact that we were bareback and in a halter made it super sweet. My little gelding was sooooo smooth. I was smiling ear to ear.

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A day to appreciate the little things

We had another bout of rain this morning that left the arenas and turnouts soggy and slippery. So I took each of my horses and my friend’s horse for a 20 min hand walk up and down the lane in front of their pens. Because Spice and my friend’s horse Bodie are both experiencing hind end soreness issues we made wide turns at each end which caused our walk to become like long figure 8′s. A pattern was born! And to help motivate the horses who are at present mostly left brained we stopped at the hay bar each time we passed it. Pause to take a bite and then let’s continue.

I took the girls first, Spice and then Dove before handling my friend’s gelding Bodie. Then I ended with my little gelding Cherokee. Wow as we made our way up and down, up and down, I had such great moments of appreciation for how easy my 3 horses are to walk with. How softly they follow and even when a juicy bit of discarded hay is in the lane they are easy to ask to continue. No rushing, or barging into my space; no pinned ears, stern corrections or ready to bite looks. Instead they checked in with me along the way and were curious about the objects we pass. In fairness to my friend’s horse who was at first rushing, barging, pinning his ears, ready to bite my stick and needing a few phase 4 reminders, my 3 have had several more years exposure to Parelli. However it was also quite interesting to see how quickly Bodie responded to me. By the third trip he was softer, exhaling and chewing, was no longer rushing and then made the most lovely change of direction that I had to stop and reward him with a nibble on the new green grass shoots.

I ended “my workout” with Cherokee. He was a bit more cautious but soon relaxed and got into sniffing this and that. On our final lap he gave me the sweetest little ride to his pen. He was soft at the mounting block, walked off easy with hips swinging softly, and responded so lightly to my carrot stick as we rode up one rein style.

Wow we have ALL come a long way.

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Anything is possible so long as the horse is in charge of the principles and the time line

Paraphrasing Pat: “The principles are the 8 listed to the left (on my blog), the purpose gives meaning to what you are teaching the horse, and taking the time it takes is essential for success and a confident, trusting horse.”

This past week my horse & I have been reflecting on Principle #8: Principles, Purpose & Time are the tools of teaching. Our lesson with David last Friday was a great example of Dove being in charge of the principles and the timeline. She is a smart, brave, athletic horse who is calmer when we take the time she needs. Our lesson revolved around finding relaxation at the canter, our little sticky spot in our Freestyle routine. We started with relaxation online at the trot and canter and then tried it while riding. Quickly it was evident that Dove was still bracing when transitioning into the canter. Hmmm…. so David had us play with increasing speed within the trot gait vs changing gait. Help her find relaxation when trotting faster. BINGO Dove responded… that is just what I needed, head lower, blowing out, … thanks.

Now what is most interesting is that we have been taking months of time, frankly the better part of a year, to find relaxation online and while riding and have seen heaps of improvement and progress. However, Dove is telling me she needs even more time to canter relaxed. So, big sigh, we put our freestyle audition back on hold. Although I am patient, this was not easy because I would really like to officially pass our Level 3 Freestyle by the end of the year…. this would be my short term goals talking of course…. so I will just “get over it.” Afterall my long term goals are so much more fun and exciting! Bareback and bridless cantering about the fields. I can wait.

And then yesterday Dove & I were playing at my friend Laurie’s ranch and here we were in a strange new environment trotting about, using only the carrot stick and occassionally the string. My horse gave me a taste of what it is like when she is in charge of the timeline. Mind you when we first arrived Dove was a bit prancy and tight. But keeping to our principles- relaxation first using friendly games exploring the ranch online; patterns such as ride the rail and cloverleaf; walk, trot, halt transitions; stopping in the corners and finding the sweet spots- we found our harmony.

In the end Dove was so relaxed and confident that she required me to be much more provacative in order to keep her attention on me and off the grass. The LBI side of her had arrived! Fascinating!

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The Joy of trailering

Over these past 2 weeks I have once again had the J*O*Y of trailering my horses. Just saying that it was joyful brings a huge ear to ear grin on my face and tingles up my spine! My three horses were quite the typical story when I first met them, hard to catch, skeptical of the whole haltering idea, extremely nervous and fearful of giving me their hooves, anxious and right brained when taken from their herd, reactionary versus responsive to the strange orange stick and string growing from my arm, and of course extremely afraid to even think of entering the death mobile aka my pretty little trailer. They would stand outside the metal cave and snort and shake and put on the emergency brakes. Thank goodness for Pat Parelli. His lovely ditty “take the time it takes, so it takes less time” rang though my head for months as we played and played and played with my pretty little shiny metal cave. The other people at the barn where I boarded thought I had jumped off the deep end. Not only was I playing this strange game every day of stick your nose in the trailer and walk off for a reward, but I was also asking them to play with cow flavored barrels, brightly colored noodles, hoola hoops and other strange pool toys. What did THAT have to do with getting your horse to load? When they saw me saddle and unsaddle my horse 50 times they went silent, shaking their heads as they walked away mumbling that I never “ride” that horse. There were a few others who practised Parelli at the barn and soon we were called the “secret carrot stick society.”

Flash forward to last week and my lovely horse Dove couldn’t wait to hop in my friend’s trailer to go exploring. And last Friday as I prepared to travel to David Lichman’s for a lesson, I parked my trailer in front of my horse’s pen to load up some things. I opened the girl’s gate to let them out for a snack in the “hay bar.” Spice walked out of her pen, paused, looked at the open doors of the trailer, made a sharp turn and walked in! I was so happy I could hardly stiffle the giggles. She looked back at me like this is a fun new liberty game. I stepped up, haltered her in the trailer and asked her to step forward a little more. She was so willing and relaxed. Dove on the other hand had stopped inside her pen when she saw Spice load herself up. She was relaxed as I walked over to reassure her. She practised perfect haltering as a partner and when I asked her to load she stepped right up and in without hesitation. This is the way I had dreamed of loading all those years ago. Willing, relaxed, confident and easy.

I am so thankful everyday for Pat & Linda Parelli and the “secret carrot stick society.”

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A fun "Hack About" in Anderson River Park

Last Friday found Dove & I trailering up to see our friends Margie & Sunny in Red Bluff, CA. What a fantastic time we had! We spent Friday evening riding around Margie’s property. It was beautiful full of Oak trees and some of the most beautiful Manzanita trees I have seen. On Saturday we drove out to Anderson River Valley Park to find the horse trails. What an adventure that turned out to be. First we had to FIND the horse area. Ingenuity + persistence = success and soon we were saddling up our ponies for some trail fun. The trails at this park meander among the trees and along the river. Several times the trail would fork off into 3-4 other trails so of course we had fun picking different trails to see where they’d lead. Were we trying to get lost? LOL maybe just a little. At one point Dove started picking up the pace- her I am heading home pace. I thought aha girl I mixed you up we are still heading out. But just around the bend I saw that Dove was indeed correct, I recognized the trail -we were heading back toward the trailers! I declared her my homing pigeon and picked another trail in the other direction.

I could not resist taking video of our exploration of Anderson River Park.

When we arrived back on Saturday night Margie’s husband had been working on her new arena! It is to-die-for my friends. I kick myself for not getting a picture of it at night. With the lights on the trees looked magnificent surrounding the rail. It is one beautiful arena! Dove & I had the privelege to ride in it. We were trying on Sunny’s bosal so of course what better place to do so then under the lights of her new arena. That was fun. On Sunday we played in Margie’s new round pen. The sand was still quite deep, perfect for a horse who wanted to go-go-go. The horse actually made the wrong thing difficult for himself! That was intersting to watch indeed.

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Mastering our fancy side pass on the trail…. in a halter

After some good soaking rain last weekend, on Tuesday we trailered out to the southeast entrance to Briones Regional Park in search of reliably dry trails. And we found some…. along with a herd of grazing goats. Oh you should have seen our ponies ears. Pricked high to the sky and super attentive. Sweet!

But I must back track a moment to the trailering out part. I have to give my horse Dove a hugh compliment on her progress on trailering. She has come along way in 6 years…. from an “oh no not the trailer” pony to a “hurry up or I am jumping in with my saddle on” kind of horse. This is the best my friends, to know your horse is truly happy to get inside the trailer…. saddle and all! THE BEST!

Ok back to our trail riding story! So the first part of our ride was focused on the wild and wooley goats that were in the staging area (near the parking lot). In addition there was a human goat herder and boarder collie dog, both of which added more interest for our ponies. Thinking they went left and we were traveling right we relaxed and proceeded to the trail head. Surprise the goats seemed to be following us as they appeared on the hillside above. Oh Boy! Needless to say I had to postpone videoing our ride until we passed the wild goat herd. Dove needed my full attention and leadership and I was there for her. She would take a few steps and then tilt her head up toward the goats and then freeze still for a moment. We had about half a dozen more of these goat thresholds before they disappeared over the hill. However Dove was still ready for their return. That is until a man on a bicycle came zooming over the next hill. Our ponies being quite familiar with bikes were startled but not bothered. The biker on the other hand froze in the middle of the trail until we passed. I think we spooked him more! Oh dear. And just like that the goats were forgotten. Now that is truly living in the moment! I took note.

We continued on this lovely dry trail and enjoyed seeing hawks and other birds enjoying the break in the rain. As we rode to the crest we had a lovely view of the valley below.

Since the wind was quite chilly we postponed our “pony picnic” and proceeded down the trail.
Here’s a little video of the Crest to Deer Trail part of our ride:
Once we were back on level ground and heading toward the trailers Dove picked up her pace. So instead of holding her back we practised our fancy side passing on the trail in a halter. What fun. I must add that it certainly helped that the trail had two distinct tracks to pass between. Thank you park maintenance! Soon our friend was joining us first right and then left. It did not take long at all before Dove was ready to relax into a more casual, head held lower and slower walk. As we approached the staging area where the trailer was parked we met a funny hiker who insisted on sitting down along the narrowest part of the trail. LOL I asked if he was ok if we passed him and he stood up to pet our ponies as we walked by. Our ponies were unfazed as they had survived goats, speedy bikers and a steep trail. This silly hiker was no match for our super equines!
Note to self: I need to pin a big “S” for Super Pony on Dove’s chest next trip.

Next week we have more sunshine forecast so we will certainly have more trail adventures to share. In the meantime we are practising our freestyle routine in our covered arena. I dare say that we have both improved our confidence and trust in each other and have already seen improvements.

ttfn, ~kim

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