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HorseSpeakZeke-horseandriderbooks

Sharon Wilsie, founder of Horse Speak™ and author of the books Horse Speak: An Equine-Human Translation Guide (with Gretchen Vogel) and Horses in Translation, provides a guest post this week. Her books are available from the TSB online bookstore (click HERE) and watch for her new DVD, coming in November 2018.

I like coffee. Strong coffee. The kind of coffee that sends an aroma out, wafting through the house and creeping under the bedroom door around 6:00 a.m. when the automatic coffee maker has brewed the liquid gold. More often than not, the urge to get just “one more minute” is corralled by the opposite urge to get my first cup of that delicious stuff.

I am one of those “animal people” who finds themselves living amidst a slew of furry friends. Slumping toward the kitchen, I have to be careful to step around a sleeping dog and not to trip over the purring kitty convinced that the best thing to go with coffee is a can of cat food.

It’s late summer here in Vermont, and from our patio I can still enjoy the early morning sunrise through the deep mists of the forest surrounding our home. There are mountains to the south and a “good hill” to the north, where we can currently spy ducks and geese practicing their flight patterns.

The horses shift and snort down below in the little valley they call home. They live in total turnout, with run-in shelters to go into when the sun is high or the bugs are too intense. We have one intrepid escape artist, so the herd has to be locked behind a gate at night where the shelters are. But the “old man” is left loose, and he usually saunters up to enjoy my morning coffee with me.

Zeke stares at me now, as though he would like to fill me in on all the goings-on that took place during his night watch. Seems a raccoon got into the garbage bin again. Zeke let’s me know by staring toward the mess, which I had not noticed yet. I lift my cup to him, and nod my head, certain he chased the varmint away. He nods his head and lets out a prolonged snort. Zeke likes things to stay tidy around here. I have seen him pin his ears at a moose when it had the audacity to wander into the back acres.

The newest member of our family, a one-year-old lab mix named Willow, has been digging, bouncing, and sniffing around, and now sneaks up toward Zeke’s nose. He sniffs her, too, then for good measure pins his ears and looks away. She takes this as a signal to run at top speed around and around him for a few minutes while he stands still, looking very annoyed—but I suspect he secretly enjoys it, because they do this every day. She loves to go trail riding with us, and even though due to his advanced age Zeke is restricted to a 20-minute walk down a very level trail, he seems to prefer it if she comes along.

Because of his senior status, I had chosen not to ride him this summer, but he got steadily depressed. One day, when I was tacking up another horse in the riding ring, he sauntered up to the saddle, which was placed on the split-rail fence, and stood alongside it, perfectly still. I smiled at him but went ahead with riding the other horse. When we were done, he lay down in front of the riding ring gate. Immediately, I assumed he was sick and went to him. Upon standing up, he walked over to the saddle again, and put his nose on it.

Well! What was I to do?

I put the other horse away, and saddled Zeke. He marched me over to the trail head and insisted on trotting every chance he got.

Since then, I take him out once or twice a week. He has even opted to go up the dirt road near our home a few times. I try not to ride him more than 20 minutes at a time, but it is always my choice to dismount, he seems to be perfectly happy to keep going.

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Sharon and Zeke. Photo by Rich Neally

Our property has different levels of fencing on it for various turnout, but Zeke has the run of it most days. Sometimes in the early morning, he will walk up to the bedroom window and get the dog barking. When we look out the window and see his enquiring nose, we know he wants something, and its time to get up. This was the case one morning when the trash men came a little earlier than usual. Our driveway is more like a short road, and Zeke came to our window to wake us, then stood in the yard, facing the sound of the oncoming trash truck. We jumped up just in time to get the barrels up the driveway, and he even sauntered halfway up the lane to watch us transport the barrels out of the back of our pickup truck and into the garbagemen’s hands. We thanked Zeke for the wake-up call and scratched his belly—his favorite spot. Then he received his morning rations of soaked senior grain and hay stretcher, right next to the back patio where we typically have our morning coffee and enjoy the first light of the day.

I have known of many people who have a senior “lawn horse.” Zeke’s records are lost, so we don’t know exactly how old he is—but there are many years under his belt. I feel that his long career as a circus vaulting horse, a carriage horse, and a therapeutic riding horse have earned him the right to live a life of liberty and the pursuit of his own happiness. Each time I invite him to go riding, it starts with simply placing the saddle on the rails. If he wants to go, he walks over and puts his nose on it. If he is not in the mood, he doesn’t.

Zeke has had a series of mouth tumors over the past two years. He has lost two teeth and regularly deals with having the vet remove the bulk of a tumor when it interferes with his chewing. However, he barely even needs sedation for any of this and appears grateful to receive the aid. He suffered a serious hind-end injury somewhere in his past, because he has scars up and down his hind legs, and his rear ankles are quite enlarged. Despite this, he loves his life. He loves Dakota, the half-blind mare he lives with when we put him in a paddock when we need to leave the house. He whinnies and even canters around if I take her out for a ride. When Zeke first came here, he was in a lot of pain, and had become a serious biter. He was going to be put down, and I offered to adopt him instead. Dakota claimed him and became his “alpha mare” in about two minutes, and they have been together ever since. She even taught me how to work with and around him safely.

Even though I am the author of two books, Horse Speak (with Gretchen Vogel) and Horses in Translation, I am still learning the intricateness of the language of equines. Having an elder wiseman such as Zeke gives me much to think about. He challenges me to communicate directly with him (like drawing my attention to the garbagemen, or the raccoon), and he makes me dig deeper to find connection with a horse that many people would have written off.

 

I like to ride my horses, but I love to sit and learn from them even more. Each time I am around them doing chores, brushing them, or just sitting with them as they graze, I seek to allow myself to go into what I call “Zero”—the inner state of stillness. From there, I can watch and observe their communications. There is a rhythm to Horse Speak; it’s like a timeless dance, moving to the music of “crunch-munch-munch” as the horses swish at a fly or chew their food. Step, chew, swish, step—lift the head, lower the head—chew, step swish. I am reminded of bees doing their “flower dance” and communicating to the rest of the hive where the best pollen is. Or fish, moving in tandem under the dock at Woods Hole, Cape Cod, at my friend’s house. Sitting on the dock, witnessing the movements of cormorants diving or seals swimming out of the harbor, I am reminded that life does this natural thing, this rhythm of movement, sound, feel, and breath. The waves crash into shore, the waves recede out.

Horse Speak is a gift. It is as old as the hills and as new as the message today from Zeke, saying, “Hey, don’t just sit there, come with me into the woods…. Sit on my back and feel my rhythm.”

And I will.

 

HorseSpeakSetSharon Wilsie’s books HORSE SPEAK and HORSES IN TRANSLATION are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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IngridKlimke-horseandriderbooks

German Olympian Ingrid Klimke is an incredible horsewoman and author, and we’ve long admired her ability to balance her equestrian career with her family, as well as her commitment to educate others, just as her esteemed father Reiner Klimke always did. TSB caught up with Ingrid last month and had a chance to ask her a few questions about her new book and the year ahead.

TSB: You recently wrote TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY, which shares many details about your training philosophy and the horses in your stable. In it, readers can really see how much each individual horse means to you. What is one lesson one of your horses has taught you that you feel has changed you, your riding, or how you work with horses?

IK: Abraxxas (“Braxxi”) taught me one really important lesson in my life: Horses, just like human beings, have strengths and weaknesses, and you have to accept that! Braxxi was always mostly great in the dressage and cross-country…but then the show jumping was not always easy. I eventually found there was no other way forward than to accept this and live with it and find other ways to make him strong. His gift to me was only one rail down in his last run at the CCI**** Burghley 2013!

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Ingrid on Braxxi with just a neck ring. Photo by Horst Streitferdt

TSB: It’s a WEG year—what are your hopes for the competition in Tryon, personally and for the German team?

IK: For sure, GOLD for the team and for Bobby (Hale Bob)!

TSB: Anyone who has tried to balance a riding life and a family will look at you with great admiration, as you compete at the very top of the international scene while still managing to be “Mom.” How do you balance your riding and training career with your family? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

IK: Good organization is the key. With the perfect team and supporters you have the chance to make everything possible. I must give many thanks to my mum Ruth, as she is always there for me. And my barn manager Carmen, as she knows all the horses—and me—better than anybody else! #teamworkmakesthedreamwork

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Ingrid with her family: Andreas, Greta, and Philippa. Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

IK: I would choose a blood horse, and I would take the book Ahlerich, which was written by my father.

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

IK: Cheese and fruit.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

IK: Perfect happiness for me is to gallop on the beach on a fast horse 🙂

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

IK: When I was two years old my mum put me on the back of a horse in the stable…

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

IK: …that same time with my mum…I fell off on the concrete!

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With daughter Philippa. Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

IK: I like a sense of humor. A good friend also needs to be tolerant so that we can be like we are and stay like we are.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

IK: I like ambitious horses with personality 🙂 It’s great when they have a winning spirit. Its also very nice when they are good jumpers.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

IK: I would love to ride across the Rocky Mountains.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

IK: Salad and pasta.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

IK: In my perfect holiday I would love to be out in nature with wild animals, on horseback, along with great people. My partner pferdesafari fulfills this dream perfectly!

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Click image above to visit pferdesafari.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

IK: Nelson Mandele.

TSB: What is your motto?

IK: Love what you do and do what you love.

 

Train Horse Ingrid Klimke

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Ingrid’s new book TRAINING HORSES THE INGRID KLIMKE WAY is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Brain-Training-Tip-21-horseandriderbooks

“We humans like to view ourselves as rational creatures who make reasoned, logical decisions and choices,” says Andrea Waldo in her bestselling book BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS. A former psychotherapist who now focuses on her training business and riding students, Waldo tells it how it is when it comes to managing our brain and stress.

“Ideally, we want our choices to support our long-term goals,” she explains. “But as much as we know that an apple is better than a cookie and that paying the electric bill is more important than the tack shop’s clearance sale, our Lizard Brain couldn’t care less about ‘long-term health’ or ‘financial stability.’ It thinks only about the immediate moment, and it cares about only one thing in this moment: survival.

“Winning the evolution game is about surviving long enough to reproduce and pass on your DNA to the next generation. Up until very recently, humans lived in an environment with lethal threats all around: saber-toothed tigers, poisonous snakes, enemy tribes. Our ancestors that survived long enough to reproduce didn’t survive because they avoided fast food and gluten and balanced their checkbooks every week; they survived because their brains developed a mechanism to get them out of danger as fast as possible. This mechanism is known as the Fight-or-Flight Response (FOFR). Here’s how it works: Imagine you’re grooming your horse and you’re leaning over to brush mud off his belly. Suddenly he kicks up at a fly and you jump out of the way just in time to avoid being kicked yourself. You realize he came dangerously close to nailing you right in the head! Now imagine how you feel: your stomach is quivering, your heart is pounding, your hands are shaking a little, and every muscle is tense. You’ve just been protected by your FOFR.

“When your brain perceives a threat in the environment, the amygdala signals the brain to engage the FOFR. A surge of stress hormones, primarily adrenaline and cortisol, are released into your bloodstream and trigger a rapid series of physiological changes. Your heart beats faster to get more blood to the major muscle groups in your arms and legs, which tense up to prepare to fight or run. You breathe faster to get more oxygen into your bloodstream. You start to perspire. Blood is channeled away from your extremities and momentarily unnecessary organs such as your stomach. This is why you may get cold hands and butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous, and why you have such a hard time relaxing your muscles enough to deepen your seat and stay tall in the saddle. An important point to note here is that the FOFR can activate when it perceives any threat. It responds whether that threat is physical, such as a kick from a horse, or psychological, such as the worry that you’ll forget your reining pattern. It also gets activated whether the perceived threat is real or imagined. This is why you can feel jittery just picturing your horse bucking you off.

60465_lizard-face“The Lizard Brain can’t tell the difference between something you imagine vividly and something that’s actually happening. On the positive side, you can feel great when you imagine something wonderful; on the down side, you can panic your Lizard Brain by picturing something terrible happening. You can also make your Lizard Brain angry (the fight in Fight or Flight) by imagining a conflict. (Ever re-live an argument with your significant other in your mind and find yourself angry all over again? Hello, Lizard Brain!) One more interesting thing happens during the FOFR. The prefrontal cortex— the Rational Brain that thinks things through logically—shuts down. It’s never even consulted in the Fight-or-Flight process. It’s as if you were flying over southern California at night, and all of a sudden, Los Angeles went totally dark. The FOFR flips a switch, and off goes your Rational Brain. At first glance, this may seem like an evolutionary design flaw. Why on earth would you want your logical thinking capacity disconnected? However, it makes sense when you look at it from a survival perspective: Imagine you’re a caveman a hundred thousand years ago. One morning, you stroll out of your cave and spy a saber-toothed tiger stalking in the bushes. Your Rational prefrontal cortex might say something like this: ‘Oh, hey, a tiger. Or is it a lion? Nope, it has saber teeth, definitely a tiger. What should I do? I could hit it with my club—no, that’s in the cave. I could climb that tree or hide behind that rock, but it might find me. I guess I’d better run—’ CHOMP! By now, the tiger has finished his delightful lunch of cave-human. In life-or-death situations, reasoning and logic simply take too much time. Instead, the amygdala hollers, ‘TIGER! RUN!’ and you live to see another day.

Brain Train for Riders Final

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“This, dear rider, is why you can’t think straight when you’re extremely nervous: your amygdala has hijacked your Rational Brain. You’re not stupid or inept; you’ve just allowed your Lizard Brain to run the show. It thinks you’re being attacked by a tiger, so it tries to get you to safety.”

You can find out how to tame your Lizard Brain in Waldo’s BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

 

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HorseBookGift

My grandmother loved books. My mom loved books. And I, necessarily, learned to love books, too. I read voraciously—everything I could get my hands on—but even my earliest memories of finding books in the children’s section of the library involved something else: horses.

Every year at Christmas I would ask my parents, and Santa, and God, for a pony. Our small suburban Florida home with the sandy backyard and neighbors seemed to me plenty big…we had a toolshed I imagined to be perfect for the right-size equine, and I was undeterred by the prospect of riding up and down our paved streets and sidewalks. Of course my parents, Santa, and God all knew better, and so the real pony never materialized, but I still got horses for Christmas every year…in the form of books.

Unknown-1One of the first horse books I vividly remember receiving was The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. My grandmother gave me the book when I was four or five (I still have it), and I remember gazing at the beautiful illustrations for hours, knowing that I loved horses just as much as the girl in the story…so much that maybe one day I would turn into a horse, like her.

UnknownI was given A Very Young Rider by Jill Krementz the Christmas after I started taking riding lessons. It was published in 1977, the year I was born, which had little to do with why I loved the book then, but holds meaning for me now. I still have this tattered copy, too.

437364779.0.mThe Christmases came and went. I tore open copies of Marguerite Henry’s classics, Walter Farley’s, and Mary O’Hara’s. I devoured them all, and took out others from the library when I’d finished. No, I didn’t have a pony of my own in the backyard, but I had Morgans and Arabians and Mustangs. I trained and rode and cared for hundreds of horses each year of my childhood.

CERIWhen we did finally move to Vermont and I grew more serious about riding, the Christmas horse books began to change. I got the United States Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, The Whole Horse Catalog, and eventually Centered Ridingthat was when I was 10 (I wrote about it HERE). Little did I know that one day I’d be part of the company that published this very book.

 

Second-Day and Next-Day Shipping are available through 12/21/17 at our online bookstore if you know someone who might, like me, love to find a few “horses” under the tree.

Happy Holidays,

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Fergus-Time-FB

Do you remember the first time you saw a Fergus the Horse Cartoon? Was he trading super clever commentary with the ever-cynical Grace? Was he stepping slickly and not-so-innocently to one side, away from the mounting block where his brave rider (alas) was attempting to climb astride? Was he pulling a laden sleigh in the company of a joyfully mismatched team? Was he photobombing a famous landmark or equestrian event?

As horse lovers, we feel pretty darn lucky to have Fergus in our lives. His antics, and those of his equine friends, ring beautifully true—he is truly “everyone’s” horse. And sometimes, when things are tough at the barn or at work or in the world, it just feels good to indulge in that which makes us laugh.

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In the past four years, Fergus has starred in three books of his own. The first, THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE, is a compilation of popular Fergus comics, plus the history of how his cartoon self came to be. The second and third books are shorter and tell silly stories of particular Fergus adventures: FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH pairs our favorite cartoon horse with a young lad bent on starting a reticent Fergus the right way, with groundwork and thoughtful horsemanship. FERGUS AND THE GREENER GRASS is this year’s release—a delightfully surprising comic adventure in which Fergus leaves his life of comfort behind and sets off on a hilarious journey. His exploits lead him over, under, and through all manner of obstacles as he strives to reach the bigger, better prize that beckons, always just a little farther away…and on the other side.

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Whether you’re 5 or 95, whether you just “like” horses or have had them your entire life, Fergus will make you smile. And this time of year, there’s nothing better than that.

THE ESSENTIAL FERGUS THE HORSE, FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH, and FERGUS AND THE GREENER GRASS are all available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Watch as famous trainers read Fergus the Horse:

Here’s what people are saying about Fergus and his books:

“My family loves the Fergus comics and this book will make it even easier to share his wisdom and humor with others. I know what I’m buying for Christmas presents this year!”—Stacy Westfall, Clinician, Freestyle Reining Champion, Winner of the 2006 Road to the Horse Colt-Starting Competition, and 2012 Cowgirl Hall of Fame Inductee

“If Sgt. Reckless were alive today, she and Fergus would be the best of friends! Fergus brings a smile to my face every time I read his cartoon.”—Robin Hutton, Author of the New York Times Bestseller Sgt. Reckless: America’s War Horse

“How cool to have Fergus and his buddies corralled in one spot! I’ve enjoyed his escapades so much over the years. This book will be a great way to enjoy them again and share them with others.”—Christine Hamilton, Editor, Western Horseman Magazine

“Fergus is that rare example of a horse with his hooves in two communities: He speaks for horses, and he speaks for people who love them. When I read a Fergus comic panel, I always chuckle, first loudly and then ruefully because the comic is funny—and I’ve been in that situation before.”—Larri Jo Starkey, Editor, The American Quarter Horse Journal

“Jean Abernethy has an artistic gift and a comic wit that makes us all grin. I am thrilled that so many of Fergus’s adventures can now be viewed together in a book.”—Lisa Wysocky, Author of My Horse My Partner and the Cat Enright Equestrian Mystery Series

“I’ve only recently become acquainted with Fergus, but we immediately hit it off. He’s just the kind of horse I like to get to know and figure out—not afraid to speak his mind, a great sense of humor, and he can teach us all a thing or two. Horses have always been my greatest teachers…but Fergus is the first animated one!”—Jonathan Field, Trainer, Clinician, and Author of The Art of Liberty Training for Horses

“Just as Snoopy is cool and Calvin and Hobbes is imaginative, Fergus the Horse is gen-u-ine equine.”—Saddle Seeks Horse

“Have you seen Fergus the Horse? If not, you’re in for a treat. … Abernethy portrays Fergus with bright, colorful illustrations that will enthrall readers of all ages. You’ll likely recognize your own horse in his amusing predicaments.”—Trail Rider Magazine

Want more Fergus? Find him on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

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Grooming

On the left: That’s me at five years old. On the right: My son at eight.

 

I had my son in front of me on the back of a horse before he was three, hoping—like any formerly horse-mad woman who did little else than muck, groom, and ride throughout her childhood might—that maybe, just maybe, he’d have a little “horsiness” rub off on him. But it was more than five years and many wheeled vehicles later when he finally, out of the blue (although admittedly after rewatching A Knight’s Tale for the thousandth time) asked if he could ride a horse.

I jumped at the chance to see my kid in the saddle at long last. Luckily, while I currently do not own a horse of my own, TSB Managing Director Martha Cook has a Morgan who draws children to him like moths to a porch light.

We arranged for an evening introduction to the ritual of riding…the cross-ties, the currycomb, the names of the different brushes (are the bristles hard or soft?), the order of go when it comes to tack. And while I stood back and allowed my son to learn from another, I felt an intense rush of pleasure, tinged as it so often is, with a distinct sadness.

Gone are my long days of dirty fingernails and face and boots as I passed the time raking aisleways, shoveling the track smooth in the indoor, bringing horses in and turning them out. Oh, and how I used to love to clean tack! The community of the warm room filled with steaming buckets and leather things on a cold day, as I rinsed and wiped and polished alongside others. The satisfaction of the bridles neatly wrapped and hung evenly along the wall, the saddles oiled and covered for another night.

Time used to pass slowly then. Whether it was the slower rhythms of barn life or merely the fact that I was literally counting down the minutes between the horses I’d get to ride, it is a pulse I can barely imagine now, when I sit down at my desk early each morning and suddenly look up to find that it is already time to make dinner.

But for an hour that evening last week, I tasted it again: time slowing. I allowed myself to imagine that I was five again, my first brush strokes on a pony’s side, my first steps beside him, leading him to a mounting block, my first attempts to direct him with a pull of the reins right and left. For that hour, all my worries about the world and our places in it fell away, and I felt, in all its simplicity, happy.

 

riding

Then…and now.

 

Why should little boys ride horses?

Because it will, even if only for a moment, make their mothers very, very happy.

 

Rebecca Didier, Managing Editor

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