Road to Bronze 2016 Journal Entries

The USLF Journal Collaborative is made up of 3 parts:

  • log entries, (see last post)  These briefly describe day-to-day training
  • journal entries, (this post)  These are in-depth entries that detail methods, results, and next steps in the horse/rider training.
  • interactive, collaborative conversations with other members  (To join, visit United States Lipizzan Federation)

2016 Journal Entries  

(from most recent appearing first)

Journal #11: 10/9/16

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Final 2016 Deb Hindi Clinic

Methods- be specific, give details: Part 1- Monarch came out lazy, dominant, and resistant. After checking for pain and saddle fit, we suppled. After determining there was no physical reason for resistance, he still would not go forward . Training strategy: get control over all 4 feet. We did lots of lateral work in very fast succession at the walk: turn on 4hand; turn on haunch; rein back; change direction: turn on 4hand; turn on haunch; rein back; change direction, etc.  After these exercises, ask for forward trot; he still was not listening to seat (I was rising higher & quicker), he was ignoring leg, and he would buck against my taps with the whip.  We repeated the quick 4 foot walk work until finally, he would go forward in the trot and lengthen across diagonal through my seat aids, (rising higher & longer).

Part 2- Shoulder In & Travers on 20 M circle in trot- he wants to brace against the outside rein- solution take outside rein about 1″ from neck. When I removed the rein from the neck, he dropped the outside rein contact. Modified exercise from step 1- instead of doing full or 1/2 turns, stay on 20M circle in the trot and ask for 2 strides turn on forehand in one direction, then 2 strides turn on forehand in the other direction, (it is like a leg yield for 2 strides, then 2 strides back.) This seemed to reestablish leadership/me and submission/him.
Part 3- turn on haunch from medium walk, shorten and quicken steps. When he became resistant, we briefly went back to Step 1. These became lovely and soft.
Part 4- collected canter: begin with trot 1/2 steps; at first steps were too big and slow. I had to think “Trot in place” with a quick rhythm. These became good, and we were able to move to transition to collected canter. We finished with 3 strides of canter half pass- the first I have ever ridden.

Reflection: When a horse comes out resistant, first check saddle fit and pain issues. Then supple the horse. If horse is still resistant, (not wanting to go forward), one must get control of all 4 feet. In doing this, the trainer can systematically unlock all the horse’s evasions and regain effectiveness with all the aids. Be patient- this can take some time.   When an aid stops to work- go back to the steps described.  If a movement can’t be fixed with a quick supple or 1/2 halt in 1-2 strides, never try to fix a movement that has lost balance.  You have to ride to ride the horse you have that day, so the next day you have a willing & supple partner. Deborah told me the instruction I had today was not a riding lesson. Rather, she gave me the keys to unlock my horse in a way that professional trainers use- lots of quick transitions that require subtlety and feel; (advanced work, not for the majority of her students.) This boosted my self-confidence and my sense of accomplishment in what we have striven toward this past year.

Next Steps: Build on what we established yesterday- submission and quality of gaits

Journal #10: 9/24-25/16

Minutes of Training: 4 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Deb Hindi Clinic

Methods- be specific, give details: Day One
Warm up walk- establish rhythm, long swinging strides, then trot rising with long neck & long loose strides to develop suppleness & warm muscles
“Low & Slow” to develop neck muscle in trot & canter. Connect horse with short reins, developing long neck. Lower crest & poll below withers, looking for neck muscle to connect to shoulder. Tempo must be slow so horse doesn’t lose balance & fall on forehand. Horse must be engaged to build muscle. Be careful- Don’t overwork & Don’t make sore. If horse is heavy on 1 side of bridle, tap with whip on shoulder to get him off heavy side & even in bridle.
Trot Work-
20 m circle rising trot low & slow
Trot across diagonal- start diagonal too slow & build for length.
Shoulder in on long side from low & slow, exaggerate angle to increase work. Use flexion & counter flexion to keep neck low and connected. Ride each stride; constantly make small subtle corrections to adjust for low, slow, straightness, angle in laterals. Ride to the release- (when things are good, give a release. As horse gets stronger, he will hold his position increasingly longer during release.)
Canter- 20 m circle low & slow. Inside rein to overbend/release. Outside rein and inside leg- counterflexion/release. Inside leg & inside rein- true flexion. Don’t work too long; sit on outside seat bone to transition to trot.
Walk on long lines, long rein, rest horse & cool out.
Day Two
Developing suppleness:
Warm up in walk:
long swinging straight lines
Bending lines riding small loops quarter-line to rail full length of long side
leg yield rail to quarter-line, then back to rail, keep horse straight: weight on outside seat bone, inside leg at girth moves horse laterally, tap in rhythm, (get stronger to increase effort in crossing hind leg.) Maintain straightness by alternating counter flexion/true flexion
Supple work in Trot rising: (use long rein)
Straight lines- down long side, across long diagonal, build power across diagonal, keep horse straight and engaged.
20m circles- inside rein for overbend/release, counter flex-inside leg keeps the bend, outside rein asks for flexion, use inside rein judiciously to prevent counterbend. True flexion- inside leg at girth, outside rein keeps neck straight, inside rein asks for flexion. Give with outside rein while keeping neck straight.
20 meter canter- same work as trot.

Reflection: “Too low/too slow” is NOT rolkur- the horse is never taken behind the vertical. The goal is to connect the neck muscle to the shoulder, or in Monarch’s case- build the neck muscle to connect to the shoulder. The bottom third is there, but not well-developed.

Always use leg with an elongated frame and deep heel. If the rider’s heel comes up, she’s lost her seat bone.

During suppling work: Monarch drops inside shoulder going to left. Use outside opening rein to help him find outside rein contact. Tap inside shoulder w/whip to move it out of the way. Same in canter; also on left lead, open outside rein to improve connection, tap inside shoulder to move it out of way, then ask for flexion. Improve bend by tapping with inside calf to move horse’s barrel to outside. Continue circle of aids & subtle prompt corrections: (outside open rein, vibrate inside rein for flexion, move & lift shoulder, move barrel to improve bend, repeat.) When suppling- only do trot-canter transitions- walk-canter is for building engagement

Next Steps: Use these steps in warm up- 10 mins suppling & 10 mins strengthening each day.

Journal #9: 9/13/16

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Canter-Walk transitions & simple changes: better balance canter to walk & better accuracy/attention during the simple change, so horse picks up correct lead every time. Though the transition is very uphill with much animation, Monarch can get excited and ignore my aids as he jumps back into canter.

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. warm up/suppling/de-spook at walk: turn off track into small circle and leg yield back to track: bending (allowing my inside leg into his ribcage), leg yield into soft outside hand, and relaxed horse poll to tail
2. build engagement with 1/2 halt in 20 M circle and shoulder-in on long side at trot- horse is honestly in front of my leg and into outside rein
3. collected canter full arena- focus on engagement and straightness
4. canter-walk transitions in 20 M circle: change after full circle; change at 1/2 circle; change at 1/4 circle in both directions.
5. simple changes on centerline I-X-L
6. simple changes on serpentine

Reflection: Monarch has greatly improved his down transition from canter to walk. He was great in all the exercises until we practiced the serpentine. Then he got really jazzed, did not want to change the bend, and wanted to jump right back into the same canter lead. I had to change our work to calm him back, so we could reconnect. We practiced tranvers at walk, then turn on the haunch.

Next Steps: Tomorrow I will practice the canter serpentine with a walk loop between two canter loops to keep him more focused. When he can do the middle loop in a focused walk with correct bend, we will practice changing the lead in the middle loop.

#8 JOURNAL: 9/2/16

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: improve quality of shoulder-in, especially to the right

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. Since we’ve had most of August off, we started with a grooming session to reestablish connection and trust.
2. Warm-up- establish rhythm and looseness.
a- long rein, straight and diagonal lines focusing on a loose rhythmic walk, rising trot, working canter.
b- supple using bending aids in corners at walk and on 20m circle in rising trot: (weight on inside seat bone, inside leg at girth/outside leg supports bend behind the girth, inside vibrating rein creates flexion, supporting outside rein steady; point belly button in direction of turn)
3. SCHOOLING
a- In walk, leg yield from A-E. If he needs to be looser in the bend, use bending aids & circle at E- 8 meters. Continue to circle until bend is supple. If he feels loose, use bending aids at E, to prepare for shoulder-in; then 1/2 halt and slide hands to inside (without crossing withers) to bring shoulders off track. When position & angle are established, 1/2 halt again, point belly button down long side, use inside seat bone to establish rhythm and keep lateral movement; ride toward the give (of the inside rein.) Straighten at H. Repeat leg yield C-B; shoulder in B-F. Turn at A: change flexion, leg yield A-B. Test bend this side at B. When horse is ready, shoulder in B-M; straighten at M; turn down centerline at C, leg yield C-E; shoulder in E-V.
b- sitting trot: repeat exercise. When shoulder in becomes fluid, go down the long side in shoulder in, collected trot
4. COOL-DOWN
a- Praise lavishly
b- canter down long side in collected trot as reward.
c- walk on loose rein
d- more grooming, cookies, praise

Reflection: Since the clinic last weekend, I have been stretching daily, as well as resuming some core exercises focusing on my asymmetries and stiff areas. In shoulder in, I put all my attention into my position, as well as “riding toward the give .” As soon as I could feel my inside seat bone weighted and moving with my horse, everything came together.

Next Steps: Continue to practice quality in the shoulder-in. Ride the exercise F-B: shoulder in; 10 meter circle; travers B-M, straighten at M, bend in corners and repeat up the next long side. Ride exercise in both directions.

#7 JOURNAL: 8/27-28/16

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Clinic with Deb Hindi; improve angle and engagement of shoulder-in

Methods- be specific, give details: WARM-UP: (he came out quite fresh after being off for 2.5 weeks with a lovely forward rhythm in all 3 gates); supple: leg yield in walk; stretchy chewy 20 M in trot, 20 M canter circle on long rein with 1 rein/ then 2 rein ubersteichen
SCHOOLING: “Ride to the Release” half-halt, then release the inside rein. If the half-halt went through, the horse will maintain balance & position. If not, repeat halt halt and release. Focus on rider position- weight on inside seat bone with outside leg supporting just behind the girth. Use circle aids to establish bend, hold position with core. Give halt-halt, hold with outside rein and release the inside rein. Stay active: supple with inside rein if he counterflexes. Ride deep into the corner to create bend and position, then ride inside leg to outside rein to build power and engagement.
COOL DOWN: stretchy chewy trot in both directions, then walk on a loose rein.

Reflection: Need to focus on rider position: For shoulder in right- find & keep right seat bone, right leg is long and deep into stirrup with a hugging leg, looking down long side with core. (Left is much easier for both of us. Resume rider stretches and core work daily.)

Next Steps: Improvement after 2 days focusing on quality of bend, angle, and engagement. Continue to practice- become very aware of rider position.

Journal #7:  June 14/15

Minutes of Training: 80

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Ride in Doyleville with Deb before bringing Monarch home. Learn how to train like Deb when I am at home without her guidance. Improve my timing and effectiveness of aids.

Methods- 

THE WARM UP:
Trot- 20 M circle at A.

  • Use bending aids to overbend- suppling from poll to tail. Don’t hold- supple a few steps, then release.
  • Counterflex a few steps to continue suppling poll. (In the counterflex, remember to ride with bending aids- my core points in direction of turn, inside leg to outside rein, outside hand “massages” for outside flexion.)
  • Shoulder fore- establish outside rein connection through inside leg. (Ride true bend and bring shoulder off circle to inside. With the position established, ride belly button to outside with inside leg to outside rein. Active hind end with whip to get quicker steps.) When connection is honest, return to circle with bending aids. Change direction/repeat on other rein.Walk- across diagonal; at X change direction. Sashay to encourage swinging back and overstep.Trot at C, sitting down the long side, sashay. Across diagonal medium trot rising. Sitting trot on next long side, sashay. Across opposite diagonal medium trot rising.Walk at A, 20 M circle. Use half steps to activate hind end; (feel for quick steps.) Back to walk, counterflex a few steps, return to true bend, 1/2 halt inside leg/outside rein, canter transition.Collected canter 20 M, use strong 1/2 halt if he is heavy, (make sure the rein is short enough to keep hands in “home” position.) Create the canter every stride.SCHOOLING: Walk-canter-walk-canter transitions on the circle. Balance the transition with 1/2 halt. Change direction through 1/2 turn on the haunches. (Think travers to ride turn on haunch- outside leg back to guard, inside leg taps in rhythm. 1/2 halt each stride.) In new direction, school walk-canter-walk-canter transitions.Reflection: FOCUS ON QUALITY- NOT THE MOVEMENT. If the transition or movement doesn’t happen, STOP & PREPARE again. Create the quality with preparation.Next Steps: As I get stronger from my back injury and my stamina increases, add more figures in collected canter. (I drew some figures in a notebook.  Review the notebook before going out to train.) Focus on a light horse who is raised in the front. When Monarch drops his shoulder, use strong 1/2 halt.

#6 JOURNAL: June 8 & 9, 2016

Minutes of Training: 3 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Work with my trainer, Deb Hindi, developing the engagement and strength for a 2nd level horse

Methods- be specific, give details: Warm up: trot- establish an outside rein. 20 m circle. Use inside leg & a variety of positions including shoulder in, shoulder fore, true bending circle, and haunches in. When outside rein established- change rein through medium trot rising across diagonal. Repeat on new rein. Develop outside rein in canter- repeat same exercises in 20 meter walk circle. Feel for acceptance and contact with outside rein. From walk with engagement and outside rein, cue canter. Keep canter & outside rein in 20 meter circle. Repeat same exercises in circle. Change direction- work other rein.
Schooling: figure 8- 10M canter circle to 20M counter canter, repeat. When both canters are balanced, ride across diagonal in true canter with simple change at X. Repeat exercise on other rein. Trot work – collected in sh-in/travers. Medium across diagonal. Keep neck up in all diagonals.

Reflection: With Monarch staying with Deb for 2.5 weeks, he is receiving concentrated training and making profound progress! It’s exciting and very motivating to train such a talented horse and willing partner. I am grateful to Deb for giving us such effective training. Monarch is with Deb for one more week.

Next Steps: Ride with Deb twice next week. Learn as much as I can while I’m with her-focusing on my timing and rider position. I will then bring him home and practice daily keeping in mind our 2nd level show at the end of July.

#5 JOURNAL  5/2/16

Minutes of Training: 60 mins

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Though Monarch has been difficult to motivate in the canter, I will focus on my position and influence him through a good seat and well timed aids. “Sit like a Princess, and Monarch will carry me.” This is the advice my trainer gives me when my horse is acting dominant and not listening to my seat and aids. Jane Savoie often reminds her readers to never force or push your horse. “Grinding will distort your position.”

Methods- be specific, give details: WARM-UP
1. Establish a good marching rhythm. Ask horse to supple neck and flex poll. When horse is supple and marching forward, engage the horse’s mind through many transitions and changes of movements. Change up schooling movements in walk, (leg yield, circle, bending line, shoulder in, travers), with forward trot work in between. Do short laterals in walk, then immediately transition to a forward trot on a straight line, then transition quickly back to walk.
SCHOOLING
1. For the canter transition, (in walk or trot), first PREPARE: (sit up, outside 1/2 halt, inside flexion). Second FEEL when outside hind leg is about to touch the ground, (as my hip is lowering)- at this moment, give canter aids: (outside leg slightly back; inside leg scoop forward and in; hips mirror leg position.
2. As horse understands that he will not be pushed into canter, sit up, sit still, and merely think- “canter.” Experiment with how light your aids can be.
3. “Sit like a princess.” Heather Moffett, “Enlightened Equitation,” p 37: Encourage the horse to lift and round his back with each stride making a little jump. In the 3 beats of the canter, allow pelvis to rotate forward, (engage core and flatten back); then return to an UPRIGHT seat- (no driving seat.) Allow quiet legs on the horse’s sides to maintain impulsion, use very light touch with calves as the back reaches the highest point. A slight squeeze with your leg will lighten your seat. Give a squeeze every 4th stride to maintain impulsion.
4. Janet Foy suggests using the whip in the outside hand. Use whip quietly to refresh canter.
5. If horse breaks, never push horse back into canter. Return to trot or walk, establish an impeccable position, and make a new transition with preparation and feel in the correct moment. Reward horse when he holds canter for at least a 20 M circle.
6. Intersperse trot work, (shoulder in & tranvers) between walk breaks and canter work.

Reflection: “Sit like a Princess” feels really good- the feeling gives me a mental image of what I must look like. It feels very balanced and light.

“Sit like a Princess” reminds me that I am the brains and my horse is the brawn. It’s my job to direct, and my horse’s job to carry. When I sit like a princess, I don’t distort my position by “grinding,” as Jane Savoie says.

“Sit like a Princess” requires both trust and courage. Trust that my horse will respond, and courage to use the whip when he ignores me. He did give me one big buck, and then the issue was over. At that point, he decided it was less work to cooperate, than to resist.

Next Steps: Hillwork tomorrow- to build on what we are doing. Cantering and trotting up hills builds strength and stamina. Getting out of the arena creates a forward horse.

#4  JOURNAL  4-6-16

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Rider- test position, maintain balanced alignment

Horse- positive response to go

Methods: Warm up- liberty groundwork to test connection; I have not been able to ride for over a week. During this work, Monarch became quite aggressive and dominant, not letting me be the leader. At the point when he lunged at my arm, begging (demanding) a treat, I changed direction for this day’s training session.

New Goal: establish mutual, collaborative connection

New Method: use long lines developing relaxed walk-trot-canter, then work the transitions in a fluid, forward manner. Use inside rein to work relaxation and suppleness. Use outside rein to develop half halt and balance.

Reflection: When I asked him to track up in the walk, he became tense. I could see he was tight in his back and did not want to track up. In the trot, he became explosive. I am so glad I changed my plan and did not ride him. He could have hurt me. Using long lines, I was able to work through the tension and reestablish a sense of connection and obedience. It was somewhat intimidating to have ahold of such power when he was exploding, (like the proverbial “tiger by the tail,”) but it was also spectacular. Bringing him down from the bucking canter and unbalanced gallop, he did an extended trot. Responding to my 1/2 halt for balance, he moved into a gorgeous passage. I was in awe of the beauty he exhibited. Eventually the trot-canter transitions become relaxed and lovely. At this point he could also overtrack in the walk. We ended on a positive note.

Next Steps: I need to continue with this groundwork, (long lines and liberty), for a few more sessions until I am sure he has returned to his usually angelic self. I need to remind myself to be patient, as I am anxious to get back to riding and training. “The slow way is always the fastest way…”

FEEDBACK FROM BRONWEN CLEARY:  “I really enjoyed your training journal from today.  Definitely much safer working from the ground when they have pent up angst for whatever reason, especially if it is expressed as belligerence. The beauty of groundwork is that you can stay safe and channel the energy into an acceptable expression instead, and as you experienced today, end up with something beautiful which I’m sure you both enjoyed.”

#3  JOURNAL   3/19/16

Minutes of Training: 6 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: attend Winter Wake-Up clinic

Methods: Winter-Wake Up clinic goals: reconnect with your horse, then use biomechanics (principles and techniques) to get your horse supple for returning to work. The day started with groundwork on a lead line. The connection was so strong with Monarch, that I was able to do all the exercises- (forward, turn to inside, turn to outside, halt, backup, walk through cavaletti leading from both side) at liberty. This was the first time I have been so successful with the liberty work. I’d like to try this at trot soon. Next we moved on to bodywork. We did some of the Hilary Clayton core activation work, and then I learned some new stretches that bodyworkers use. I was able to release many tightnesses that Monarch had developed over the winter layoff.

After lunch, some of us did longe work and others did work on the long lines. Monarch and I worked on long lining. Again, he was very connected. I was able to get the 1/2 halt through, so we could work on transitions within the gait at trot and canter. Then we did cavaletti on the long lines.

The last part of the clinic was mounted work. I immediately noticed as huge difference, (improvement) in Monarch’s way of moving. He was very loose and forward- something we had struggled with for the past week, as I was bringing him back into work. Since he is coming back from a winter layoff, this part of the clinic was rather modified, with many walk breaks. He did some turn on haunches/forehand; walk-trot transitions, a bit of trot through cavaletti on straight and bending lines, and a bit of canter.

Reflection: I want to incorporate liberty in my daily warm up, as well as the body stretches, as Monarch struggles with engagement with a deep step under his body.

Loved the long line work, because in the long lines, the trainer is able to see what the horse is doing. Unlike longeing, the trainer has both an inside and outside rein, so training is much like mounted work, and the 1/2 halt is possible.

The clinic made a huge and noticeable improvement in my horse’s way of going. This was a great learning experience- added some new tools to helping my horse, and I learned that the spring resistances are in the body- not the brain.

#2 JOURNAL     Date: 3/17/16

Minutes of Training: 70

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Monarch- after a week off, reestablish obedience and forward desire.
Me- using my new posture from P/T, ride with left leg forward (at girth) and heel out

Methods: OBEDIENCE: ground work- I will work on both his inside and outside in both directions at walk and halt- Monarch will keep his own space, (not fall into my space). Laterals- Monarch will leg yield and hold shoulder in position down the long side with light aids from me.

FORWARD: use Jane Savoy’s FORWARD strategies, (if he slows down, I give light aid, if he doesn’t surge forward, give strong aid to get his attention, then back to walk and ask again lightly. If he gives a surge, reward. If he ignores- strong aid again until I get reaction. After every strong aid, bring him back to walk and ask again lightly until he learns to go forward without strong aid. Never leave a question with a correction.)

MY POSITION: check in frequently at walk and trot

Reflection: Obedience on ground was very good.

Forward was very difficult, with bucking and many corrections. We will need to continue to work on this. To be fair, he is most likely out-of-shape, though I think he was also being lazy.

My position is improving and keeping a correct leg is much easier.

Next Steps: Tomorrow, do the same warm up on the ground with walk-halt and laterals before work on lunge. Add the request to back up from a light aid, after he is warmed up to get him thinking about working his hind end and to go more forward. Walk- halt- backup- forward….repeat

Before mounting, lunge to work on forward trot with light aid.  Watch to see him lengthen his stride and move with more energy from light aid.  When he is reliable light and forward, reward, then mount.  Same exercise from the saddle.

#1 JOURNAL    early March

GOAL: improve the effectiveness of my seat through physical therapy and conscious attention to rider position and balance.  I have traveled to Denver and worked with my physical therapist for 2 days in January.  She made some remarkable changes in correcting my rotated hip, my frozen left knee, and the flexibility of both my feet and ankles.  My PT exercises were quite difficult at first, though I am making progress through regular practice.  Exercise routine includes 3 different core strengthening repeated 3 times,  held for 2 mins each, twice/day; a hip stabilization exercise held for 30 section on both sides repeated 3 times, and a posture exercise.

METHOD: use awareness of my “new posture” at walk, trot, and canter; continue to focus on the muscles I am developing in my PT while I am riding and continue to check in on my overall position, listen to Monarch and adjust based on his feedback.  First day back in saddle, we worked at walk only.  Next session, we did walk and trot.  By the fourth day training, we could do walk, trot, and canter.

REFLECTION:  I am getting much stronger- able to hold the first two exercises for a minute and 50 seconds.  The last exercise, I can hold for a minute and 1/2, but I struggle to keep my back completely still and flat.  Also, I find it hard to fit 2 PT sessions in my day, especially now that I have increased my time with each exercise.  I will instead do my reps X4, X5, and finally build up to X6 in a single session.  I have improved the posture exercise so much, my 3 reps have progressed to 30 reps without pain!  The exercises and the muscle/joint remodeling from my physical therapist have made it possible to ride without my leg on the horse, except a bit in the canter.

When I first started asking Monarch for an active trot, he was resistant and did buck.  I had to be both assertive and consistent until he accepted my aids.  Also, since I took my leg off immediately after asking, I think the request was both clear and fair for him.  The issue resolved itself after the second day.

I had a lot of traveling this past week, so I am anxious to begin working with Monarch again.  I was able to do the PT while traveling, but Monarch did get a week off after only one week of training.  Our work together needs to be more consistent.  With the weather improving and daylight savings time now in effect, I am hopeful for more consistency with our training.

NEXT STEPS:  Continue with P/T and go to the therapist for two more sessions next week.  Begin riding Monarch every day again, with focus on position for me.  For Monarch focus is prompt & forward  obedience.

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