Going for a Run

Lucky might be reluctant to work, but he knows what he’s supposed to do when he’s asked. It was bright and sunny and freezing cold (and he is still fat and less than enthusiastic about getting going) so I opened the gates and we went out. The woods are particularly noisy right now–all the dry, dead, leaves, down branches (alas, our big jump log has been chopped up for firewood), squirrels and chipmunks and birds, new growth on raspberry and rose vines sticking out. Lucky was on the alert side, but we kept it fairly short and he stayed cool. Out on the track, I’m not sure who was in worse shape, him or me, but in fairness to me he wanted to stop trotting before I would have NEEDED to stop posting. In fairness to him, I was close to getting left behind when I turned him around at the top of the stretch and he assumed it was time to gallop. The second try was a bit smoother, though he insisted on walking into that one.

Strange as it sounds, I think he might have needed that. Maybe a sprint was good for stretching out the winter kinks because in the ring, he was a lot more cooperative about the trot than he was Saturday. Despite the kefuffle going on in the paddock next door. We have a guest horse, who’s living here while his owner finishes building a barn, and he and Takota were busy chasing each other and playing the ‘got your halter’ game while sorting out who is boss. (Answer: Vandy and Trudy, but that’s why they’re in other pens. Don’t argue with the redheaded mares.) Lucky’s canter was increasingly less awkward, and we managed three times over the poles and crossrail without knocking anything down. On the third try, he even cantered off on the correct (left) lead. Not easy on him, as turning left requires going downhill, but he managed! He even worked up an actual sweat (though there’s still a lot of fuzz going on, which didn’t help) that required real rubbing down after walking. Of course, given winter coats, the girth mark will magically reappear later, but he appreciated the extra attention, including a liniment rubdown.

So, lesson of the day, if you want a happy, forward TB, try and breeze a quarter (or a furlong) first.

Yep, Lucky is in the news again!

Lucky to Cope is dancer’s newest partner.

(With cameo by Nanook, who has been renamed Sylvester because, well, look at him.)

Thank you, Susan! See, buy an OTTB, people will interview you! (And if anyone is interested in one of those ballroom dresses, just ask. One’s on ebay right now. There’s another thing–you can’t put a horse on ebay. And now you’d better believe I’d want more for Lucky than I’m asking for the dress–maybe if someone offered me his weight in gold, I’d think about it.)

Pedicure Day

For Lucky, not for me. For once, the farrier (Rich) came on a Monday instead of a Tuesday, meaning I was free to get up early on my day off and go out to the barn. The nice part, besides actually getting to talk to Rich in person, was finally getting to meet Zoey’s owner. Z’s Mom is a nice but busy lady, and I did mention if she wants him handwalked or groomed (he’s working an abscess so no riding) and she can’t get out to the barn to let me know and I can always get him out while I’m at the barn. I hope she does call, and she says she’s put her son on notice that she needs free time, too! (Wish I could say the same thing to the dogs. Or potty-train them.) I wouldn’t mind giving Zoey some TLC. He’s a sweetie, even if he did beat up on Lucky when they were out together. He tried that with Dino. Dino may not be tall, but he is wide, and he was having none of that.

We debated heights. Zoey apparently sticks at 16.1 I can see he is taller than Lucky, but not by much. I really need to get a good measuring stick and get an accurate measurement.

Rich is still quite pleased with Lucky’s feet. He is apparently growing lots of sole, and besides one small crack on the left front that doesn’t want to get trimmed away, his feet no longer have the shelly, flaking look they did when he was growing out nail holes. Rich is, as a rule, not a fan of thoroughbred feet. He mentioned Big Brown specifically, and I did point out that his feet were spectacularly bad, even for a thoroughbred. With which he concurred. Lucky, however, has nice feet now, though there was a little bruising on the left hind. Rich also asked if I’d ever ‘opened him up’, and I admitted I had, or at least as much as Lucky felt like opening up. Rich approved, noting sometimes it’s nice to let them get it out of their system. I agree. Not to mention it’s a lot of fun.

The bad part? It was freezing. I rode yesterday in the wind and while Lucky was fine with it, I was done in about a half-hour. Winter is indeed coming, and the fuzzy faces at the barn are no longer the only indicator.

And I caught this fine lady when I got home and was watching TVG’s Finger Lakes simulcasting while doing housework. Someone please go get her. She plainly does not want to be a racehorse any more.

Forward, Ho!

I probably shouldn’t be, but I find it surprising how much riding Lucky is like riding a “normal” horse. In other words, not a racehorse. I go to the barn, get him out, put him in the crossties, complain about how much sand he managed to grind into his coat, groom him, tack him up and go for a ride. Sure, there are little things (track-style picking of his feet from the near side, something I give up arguing with him about, the odd step-off when mounting, the fact that he likes inside rein/inside leg for a canter cue) but mostly, we’ve gotten to where I get on, he takes some prodding for the first trot, and it’s not far different from riding my old horse when he was eight, when he’d been four years off the track.

Forward is better. The whip is still a mandatory accessory as he needs a tap or two at times to get going in the first trot, and there is not much bending through corners going on (though there is a tiny bit.) Contact is slowly being achieved, and best of all the canter is now coming from almost a walk on the left, and with a relatively short distance of trot steps on the right. The lead is even more correct than not. Today he picked up the left on the first try, but when he stumbled I still don’t have enough contact to keep him up, and he swapped to recover. I think he scared himself a bit, too. The one major thing I would change at the barn, which overall is awesome, is the outdoor, while huge, has a significant slope. Not a big hill, but enough that he feels it going up and has to balance himself going down, which I suppose is good preparation for riding out, but does make balancing him harder. I do like that there’s the sand arena, but there’s also a long strip of grass down one side, so I can work him and jump him on two different surfaces without having to haul the jumps very far or find a wide-open spot on the grass when everyone’s turned out in the pastures.

I think he’s starting to get the idea about jumping. Though only for very short periods. I really need to learn to quit while I’m ahead, but when he’s going forward, and actually seeming to anticipate the X or the pole, it’s hard to make one pass and say “We’re good.” He is starting to pick UP speed, though, rather than slow down, though we had a “Whoa wait what?” moment trotting the poles at first (J. bought PVC pipe to replace the grayed, warping wood poles that tended to blend into the sand and I think the bright-white made Lucky do a double take.) But the second time, we rapped the X hard, and the third he knocked a rail down.

Tomorrow I’m not sure what we’ll do. I’m debating taking him out for a gallop and giving him a mental break, but it’ll depend on the weather. I had a cold towel around my neck, was wearing thin cotton tights and an open-neck polo, and there were still moments where it was simply hot.

Apparently, we have found one thing that Lucky will react to: I had a message from the B.O. earlier this week. They were having an estate auction across the road, and there was a loudspeaker system. Lucky is in the closest paddock to the road, with just a house and yard between him and the street and the house hosting the sale, and apparently could hear everything. According to the B.O., as soon as the loudspeaker came on, his head went up, and he started racing and prancing around his pen like it was off to the races. My mom, when I told her, asked the interesting question “I wonder what he’d think of the fair?” It does make you wonder what he’d think about a horse show and the public-address system.

Well, Good Grief

Look what Google finds you.

(Also, amusingly enough, in the entry about the 2008 MassCap, if you look at the large version of the last picture, in the far right corner, you will see a girl in a red sweater with a brown ponytail squished on the rail by the Winner’s Circle. So not only was Lucky featured on the blog, there is a photo cameo by yours truly as well!)

In which I put my hand farther up a horse’s mouth than would strictly be wise

Were he not lightly sedated and did he not have a speculum holding his mouth open, that is.

Lucky is probably a much happier horse tonight. The dental specialist came out, and his mouth was a complete mess. Not just his #11 molar was bad. His ridges felt like a “bumpy road” (one reason she wanted me to feel it) and the bad molar had actually caused a sore and damaged the opposite tooth. The baby teeth could come out and did (though I didn’t notice the smell she described them having. Then again. Puff had been throwing up last night and I think he has been surfing the litter box, so my tolerance for disgusting smells may have been higher than usual.) She also filed down his canines after fixing the back teeth.

He did get mildly sedated–xylazine and another sedative agent (I didn’t recognize the name, I’m only familiar with using xylazine with ketamine and we didn’t knock him out!) and he was pleasantly loopy. Even considering he was sedated, the dentist commented on how well-mannered he was. Apparently even when they’re out of it a lot of horses will try nibbling while she works on the front teeth. Lucky just accepted it. The dentist and her assistant were both happy with how he handled it. So was I, and I’m hoping that when I work him again, some of that inversion and resistance will go now that he isn’t biting himself in the mouth.

The dentist mentioned that her mentor, the owner of the school she trained at, had worked in Kentucky, and encountered a lot of resistance or just indifference from race owners and trainers to doing more than a filing. In her opinion, this results in horses who no longer want to lower their heads, lean into the bit and run. Given how Lucky uses his head, and how much he disliked a D ring snaffle (which could pinch and poke when he’s already pinching and poking himself with his own teeth) I could see that. It seems like it would be a cheap way of getting better performances out of them to just do their teeth better. I’ll find out how much he does improve tomorrow or Sunday–I have to work tomorrow, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get out there and be able to get home in time for the Derby. No, I don’t have a favorite. Anyone I pick will just be jinxed! If I were betting, I would pick Lookin At Lucky, and I would probably also bet the filly, Devil May Care, just in case. Well, that, and we’re not supposed to have much better weather than they are in Louisville.

After the barn (Lucky got a bit of recovery time, then I put him back out and puttered cleaning up his stall and where he left a ‘deposit’ while she was working on him, until he looked like he was moving around a bit more and didn’t seem to be too groggy) I had to head over to Mishawaka for a dance lesson. It’s only my second with New Pro, but so far, so good. And it’s surprisingly easy to get there from the barn. And after that, shopping. I actually bought plants, as I’ve been meaning to do something with the yard. I need more border plants, so I got a boxwood and a Colorado blue spruce (yes, I know how big it’s going to get. That’s rather the point!) I also put in some ground cover flowers, Alyssum and Lobelia. I still need to find something for the front yard–vinca minor would work well, but the garden center didn’t have any. Hopefully it won’t all be drowned by rain. Even if I had a lawn mower, which I don’t, I still wouldn’t be able to mow the lawn. Maybe I should get a goat. I don’t have enough land for a horse per township regs, but they might not notice a goat. (Or, given all the animals the neighbors have, care.)


New tack! Oh, new tack. The nice leather smell, the fitting it to the horse, the first ride . . . .

Okay, so they’re not NEW. In fact God knows how old the bridle is–it came with a nickle full cheek that doesn’t look or feel like anything I’ve seen in bits in a while, and it IS a flat hunter-style English leather bridle. It’s also in a cob size. He’s now wearing it with the caveson on the second hole, the cheek pieces on the second hole, and the throatlatch just barely reaches, while in the raised (yuck) horse-size everything is on the very shortest hole possible and the cheek pieces are still too long. You can only punch so many extra holes before you run out of leather. I may take it down to this man in Shipsie who does leather work and have him make the throatlatch longer, but the rest fits pretty well. He just has this very teacup muzzle, dished short face, and then a regular old horse-style throatlatch. (Also, anyone know where to get a set of Havana brown snaffle and curb reins? Because my reins do not match.)

The saddle, meanwhile, is a Crosby Prix des Nations that has obviously been VERY well cared for. The flaps are like butter and the seat is beautiful. The tree, obviously, is fine and he does seem to take a medium comfortably. Even with a 17.5″ seat it’s still not GREAT for me. Still like sitting on a board. But he seemed to like it better, and it’s definitely lighter than the Stubben. He was okay with that, but lightening the load a bit can’t hurt.

He is still suffering from horsey ADHD. Anything a half-mile away is more interesting than what is going on, sometimes enough to get bouncey. And Trudy being ridden in the woods was downright mystifying and scary. (Apparently Trudy wasn’t thrilled to pieces with the idea, either.) We also had serious issues with standing still while dismounted and NOT using owner as a scratching post. We had a good amount of trotting in the round pen, and I realized very quickly why I have to shorten the stirrups about two holes from where I had them on the AP. Ow. Hi, knees. Sorry about that. Between this and the dance shoes this was not a good week for you. Something in the woods got scary and we had a minor spook, and finally a stop with complete ignoring of the bit. I got off and we walked over to the big ring and had a couple walks around to the far end where the scary things live. I got back up and again we had the inverting and the horsey ADHD. The BO’s daughter (mother of T., who rode Lucky a few weeks ago) hopped up and decided to take him around the ring, spooks or no. (I meanwhile was starting to consider the virtues of acepromazine as horsie Ritalin.)

It was VERY nice to not only stand back and watch him go under saddle but to have someone on him who had ridden an OTTB a lot. The BO didn’t quite get why I was not entirely thrilled with his brain, saying that he doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body, which of course he doesn’t. Her daughter got what I meant about ADD. He’s a looker. He is paying attention to everything everywhere all the time. She also agreed that there’s something just a bit funky with his right back leg. I watched her trot him, and she watched me trot him (and then we stopped as he had been ridden for almost forty-five minutes, the longest yet!) and while he’s not in any pain that we can see, he’s just kind of unbalanced. Not in a wobbly way, just in the sense that his right side is not as developed as his left and it shows particularly in his right stifle. When the ground’s uneven (there’s a bit of a slope to the big ring) it seems to work him harder. So nice to know I was not imagining that! We both agreed that the saddle is also a great ride. He seems to like it, too.

Back at the barn, we talked about our respective OTTBs, her old one and mine. Both were much more ‘hot’ than Lucky (who is not so much hot as very easily distracted) and yet both seemed to have a knack for knowing when their rider was not someone who knew how to deal. You could put a little kid on either of them (and I suspect Lucky, too) and they became the blandest lead-line pony imaginable. They were just smart like that.

Lucky, by the way, saw the vet and equine dentist while I was away (I had a ballroom competition on the east side of the state, which was a ton of fun and went extremely well for my not having danced in six months.) The vet gave him his vaccines and checked out the two hairless patched on his left shoulder. In her opinion, they are a benign sarcoid (yay, not mange, fungus or fleas) and I can treat it with an iodine wash and/or bag balm, and they will not bother him. They don’t seem to, certainly, not the way Old OTTB went mildly nuts with a fungal infection that made him itch. The equine dentist, meanwhile, was yet another ho-hum moment for Lucky (he was the only horse who did NOT need sedating) but his teeth are worse than mine. His funky double tooth in front is a baby tooth that never fell out. And there is one tooth in back the dentist could not reach and he is recommending having someone who uses power tools get it. Rather than call the vet back out, I’m first going to check with my friend B., who had mentioned having someone who uses drill grinders do her two Arabs and she was quite pleased with the result. She is an older lady whose family bred Arabs and she’s quite picky about caring for her two, so I would trust her recommendation.

And I came home from the barn with a, hopefully temporary, souvenir. While I was putting the iodine and Bigeloil away (iodine for the hairless patch, Bigeloil for his legs) I heard a loud kitten meow behind me. I turned around and saw a black and white kitten prowling the tack room. Now, the BO does not have a black and white kitten. However, her daughter is the source of Pest and Pest’s brother (who went home with another boarder) so I thought, okay, maybe she brought another one. I scooped the kitten up and called BO and daughter back to the barn. By then I’d seen the goopy eyes and figured that this was probably not a new resident-at least not a planned one. I held on to her while I gave Lucky his treats and put him away (he was very tolerant of the strange snuffly thing in my other arm, probably because everyone else was getting dinner and he just wanted to get to his stall) and the BO’s daughter (vet tech) took a look. Kitten is dehydrated, lungs sound clear but the eyes and nose as goopy, and kitten obviously is cold and tired.

Long story short, the BO’s dog would eat it if they took it in, daughter has a pregnant cat at home and can’t take a cat with an infection in, while I have a mud room where I can keep her isolated. BO had some leftover pink liquid (tetracycline–they make the same nasty pink stuff for animals as humans) from one of the other cats, loaned me a carrier and a big towel, and off she went with me. Right now, she’s curled in the cubby beneath my deacon’s bench, and has had her first dose of tetra, eaten a bit, and has a full water bowl, rugs and towels, and a small litter box. Hopefully she can get some rest and get in shape to be a barn cat. She’s probably eight or so weeks old-barely enough to be on her own. She did eat the little bit of food I gave her, and I think she drank some, so now I’m leaving her alone for the night. Pictures tomorrow, when hopefully she’ll be feeling more social. Tucker sniffed, Puff kind of glanced at her, and I don’t think that my cats (who don’t go in the mud room) even realize she’s here.

Little Good, Little Bad…

Mostly the weather. Bad. BAD. Mid-forties, constant rain, and wind. The kind of weather that’s depressing when you’re indoors.

Of course, where was my crazy horse when I got to the barn today? Horse who has all-day access to his nice cozy stall with straw and a full bucket and a manger full of hay? Standing out with his butt against the east fence in the cold rain. Though he wasn’t all that unhappy about being taken inside. Grooming involved quite a bit of scraping and toweling–though oddly enough mostly on his right side. He just seems to get dirtier on his right side.

The farrier came on Tuesday. I wasn’t able to be there, as I had programs to do at a school fifteen miles the other way from home. Because of the garbage weather, I didn’t take my camera today, and I wish I had, because I took some “before” shots of his feet last weekend. And they were pretty darn ugly. Lots of flaking where the nail holes were growing out, his right front (with the quarter gouge) was very obviously too long and his left front was very clearly too short and too heel-high. Well, Rich again worked miracles. His front feet aren’t perfectly even yet, but they’re much, much closer. There’s nary a speck of flaking or shelling to be seen. Could we have a barefoot OTTB? Stay tuned. (And for those concerned, this farrier wouldn’t hesitate to put on shoes if Lucky needed them.)

Call me crazy, but we saddled up anyway. Lucky decided that he was not going to be especially cooperative today. I suspect a HUGE part of that was the weather. It took several tries to stand for mounting in the big ring (though to his credit he did not step off until I asked once I was up) and then we’re back to inverted, head up, evade, today with bouncy bouncy instead of a dead stop. It became clear pretty quickly he was not going to pay attention and we were both getting soaked, so I decided to settle for a circle and a halt. He had the circle down, but the instant we were into the wind the halt went out the window. A request for a ‘stand’ was interpreted as ‘back’, and the instant pressure back released he was bouncing forward again. I finally got off without a good halt and decided that if the big ring was full of too many interesting things we could try the round pen. It’s a rail fence, and not quite six feet high, so he can still see out of it just fine, but it limits his options (and is a little farther from interesting things like the pasture and the horse who lives on the other side of the woodlot.) He was not thrilled that we were going to the round pen instead of away and we had another minor discussion about standing to mount. I won, faster this time. Again, he didn’t step out until I asked (smart boy!) and this time we had a minimum of bouncy-bouncy. And I’m quite pleased the gate swinging a bit on its hinges was not even worth his attention. He’s a looky-lou at times, but he seems to at least reserve it for things which are actually interesting. By this point, my nose is running, we’re still wet, it’s still windy and we’re still cold, so we went around the ring a couple times, and as soon as I got a good, steady, continued halt, we were done. When I left after wiping down him and the tack, he at least seemed to have decided the nice warm stall was the place to be.

On the subject of his needing to be looking around, I registered at calracing.com, which has race replays from several tracks outside California, including Tampa Bay, Presque Isle Downs, and Delaware Park. So I registered and got a chance to actually watch Lucky run. I find it very educational that his trainers have felt it prudent to run him in blinkers. My old OTTB Benny was, according to his race owners, very prone to racehorse ADD–“Hey, look, a horse to my right! Oh, wow, is that a crowd over there? Hi people!” He ran in blinkers. I also VERY much enjoyed his race from July 1, 2008 at Delaware, where he went off as the longest shot in the field, 25-1, and paid $60 to win after getting out front and opening up too much daylight to get caught when he started to fade. It’s also good to know, looking at his front-running trend, if he ever runs away with me I just need to hold on ’til the 3/4 pole and he should be done. (Kidding, but he does show a pattern of going to an early lead and being done at 3/4 and fading.)


No pictures today. I didn’t take the camera, plus it takes so long to upload things on dial-up. (Yes, I am living in the stone age here with the dial-up.)

Lucky was not exactly thrilled to see me. He was less thrilled by whoever was walking a dog in the hay field, which he could see through the barn door. (The BO wasn’t thrilled, either, because there wasn’t supposed to be anyone walking their dog out there.) Also a little weirded out by two of the BO’s grandchildren walking around the farm, but he got over that.

We were back in the round pen today, which is getting even muddier, as it made it to the low 50s here today. And Lucky apparently decided on a total work stoppage. We went around on the left rein a couple times, and he just planted his feet. Turning his head, he demonstrated he can flex really far, but he ignored leg completely and he wasn’t going to be tipped off balance and made to move. Needless to say, the grandkids were watching, and I suspect were unimpressed with my mad riding skillz. T., the boy, asked if he could try. I asked if he had a helmet. While he went to get it (no arguments; his grandmother’s rule is helmets on if you’re riding on the place) I got off and walked Lucky to see if he was sore. Really, I have not had a horse who was NOT sore stop so dead on me. He walked sound, so I readjusted the saddle. I had to laugh that T. has apparently never seen English stirrups run up before. I got up with the shifted saddle, and still no movement. T. got on. Since he’s never ridden with double reins I told him to just leave the curb rein down and try with the snaffle.

Now, maybe I am a wuss for letting a kid get up on my horse when I’m having issues. I think the part where I was really a wimp was I let T. try the crop after I had passed on it. I admit, I am leery about using a crop on an OTTB, largely because my Old OTTB never forgot what a racing whip meant: “Go fast.” Also, if he really WAS hurting, I did not want him to feel like he HAD to move, or that bucking was an option. However, that does not seem to be an issue for Lucky. T. tapped him and he walked on, not with a great deal of enthusiasm, but he did walk on. T. kept going on about how ‘smooth’ Lucky is, and found it hard to believe when the BO asked what he thought about Lucky being a racehorse. He wanted to know if Lucky was a trotter or pacer? It was nice to stand back and watch Lucky move, too. He doesn’t step out more than he has to, but he has a very fluid walk.

I did get back on, juggling the double reins and the stick–it’s strange learning to handle one as I don’t think I’ve carried one since I first started and a few of the schoolies at the Arab barn I rode at needed one. Lucky does seem to need a tap or two. I don’t know if it is soreness–he had some spots, according to the massage therapist, but nothing major. It might also be his teeth, as he does need them done. And I really do think he’s assumed that because the shoes are off, he is on vacation. If there is anything with his feet, we’ll know Tuesday, as the farrier was due. I think it may be some combination of ‘all of the above.’ The teeth should provide a major change, and the search for a reasonably inexpensive close-contact saddle, that might be lighter on his back, continues.

Same Ol’, Same Ol’

While we are not facing the same sort of Snowpocalypse as the East Coast (thank goodness) we did get another snow day on Wednesday. This meant more drifts and today, even though it looked better than the big outdoor, when I walked Lucky around before trying to get on his front feet actually slid forward at one point, and we were both up to our knees. So, I figured that at least the snow would be shallower, and I hadn’t noticed any ice, so we would try the big ring. I mounted from the stump again and this time he stepped off once I was up, so we had a small discussion about standing.

With the snow as deep as it is, I can’t really do much for now but work on very basic basics. Not unsurprisingly, he’s not very clear on leg aids beyond ‘go forward’, and he’s very inverted and above the bit, though he does mouth it and he pays some attention to my hands. The knee-deep snow makes me not sure if his head-up reluctance to go forward is footing, OTTB being an OTTB, bridle fit (I have my doubts and think I need to punch another hole in the cheekpiece), saddle fit, not a fan of the bit (copper dee) or some combination of the above. With snow up to his knees, and no real desire to get him at all warm under the saddle, I’m not going to push it. So we worked on turning, stopping and standing, and getting him to drop his nose as much as possible. He’s heavy in front, which isn’t surprising, and as I said, the legs are just kind of there as far as he’s concerned. But except for a dancy bit at the end, he was willing, by and large, to stop playing lookie-lou and at least walk and circle. It starting snowing again and the wind was picking up, so I hopped down and took him back to the barn, with a little walking on the plowed area by the door.

When we got back to the crossties we had one of those nice moments only other horse people get. When I went to start unbuckling the bridle Lucky decided to just put his chin on my shoulder and rest it there, for no apparent reason. For all I know he was just tired, but I’d like to think it means he likes me.

My dogs, meanwhile, probably hate me. Tucker, as I may have mentioned, has some pudge problems. Puff, meanwhile, is ten years old and could use the exercise. We have adopted the diet and exercise plan I like to call the Bataan Dog March. I’m shooting for a minimum of 2 miles a day, with 4-5 on days when I have more time. So we just got back from yet another long walk on country roads. Adding insult to injury, I washed their dog beds, which I’m sure they thought were all nice and stinky. I’m such a mean dog mommy.

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