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And More......( OR JJ's second Blog!)

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JJ in bedAfter my last Blog I have had people contact me asking how the lesson went and what I am doing next, so for this blog I will add day by day as to what we are doing.
Saturday 21 May- My lesson! JJ had the <BLOG_BREAK>morning in the field, then loaded up just fine, and travelled silently. He was just a little excited when he arrived, but nothing detrimental, just keen to get on with the job, and also to meet whatever horses were at the new yard. I like Selina's yard as it is fully enclosed and gated, with an indoor school to aid in our concentration for this, our first outing.
Selina liked JJ, he was good the entire lesson, and jumped with enthuseasm. We only jumped a few jumps, 16 in total I think, but even though they were not big JJ makes me laugh out loud as he bounces along. To my surprise he was quiet as quiet could be, obedient and relaxed. We could have done a lot more, but hey, this was our first outing, and, as I say, I like to have a history of little successes to build confidence, and today was a success.
Sunday 22 May- I was teaching today so JJ started the day turned out. Gosh windy? It was gale force! I had intended to ride out as we worked in a school yesterday, but with the high winds I chose to ride in my own school. Hmmmm, well, the fancy gizmo tack has got to come off sometime, so we did today's session in a dressage saddle and a simple bridle, with a loose ring snaffle and plain loose noseband.
JJ is funny when schooing, you could say he really has no enthuseasm for the job. He is obedient, but does not have that alive feel like when he is jumping. I need to think my way around this, I would like for JJ to enjoy this experience, not least because I like schooling and I would like for him to enjoy it too.
I decided that JJ's physical ability was in advance of his emotional ability to school. It is funny I have recently come accross two situations where people have wished they were further on than they were with their own abilities. We have had a discussion and it is clear that to make progress then firstly you have to see and accept where you are. I have discribed the ideal frame of mind as being happy with where you are at, but keen to improve. If I try to hide where we are with our schooling and press on regardless then JJ will not develop. Oh, I dare say I could develop his physical abilities, but unless he enjoys the dance then it will always be lacklustre.
So, I am sitting on JJ, walking around my school, and I decide to look objectively at where we are at. I decide that JJ does not move forwards off my leg, in a warmup that is the very first thing I ask for (other than to stand still while I get on!), and really, it is not wholehearted. Hmmmm, wholehearted, I have come accross that word with JJ before. Oh yes, approaching a fence, he is wholehearted. But lungeing, oh no, as I said in my last blog he was not, he preferred to shorten his topline and did not move forward with engagement. This is what is missing in his ridden school work too.
I guess it is hard to install a sense of purpose to walking in the school if the horse does not really see the point. Also, with JJ I experimented and found that when asked to go forwards, in an outline, he became less relaxed. So, we are at JJ being reticent to go forwards, and this is a horse that is fit and athletic, with huge energy. I started to just ask JJ forwards with a touch of my leg. When he did I did not attempt to keep an outline, the ONLY emphasis was on forwards. We built forwards wave on wave, with me asking for more just before the last wave of increased walk died.
After a few minutes we were walking, and I mean swinging along. As soon as I asked for him to relax his neck with my reins then that seemed to create some tension, so I would re-establish the walk swinging and ask for just a little bit of contact to be accepted. It got better.
For this session I finished with just a little trot, again on a very relaxed contact. I know I could have got a more "correct" look, more "on the bit", but I did not ask for this. I have broken it right down to just asking for a response from "forwards". It is almost like JJ "gets" the "forwards", but when you ask for some flexion then he thinks "slow" again, like he does not move his body through. And you can get over this with more leg, but then he seems to lose some of the enjoyment.
This session was just 20 minutes long, mostly at walk. I guess to have him enjoy what he currectly sees as a pointless task then short sessions will be the way to go.
I must have enjoyed this playing on the school (even though the wind at times was so strong I was actually bracing myself just to stay upright in the saddle!), as afterwards I cleaned ALL my tack, swept the tack room, grooming bay and hay store. I guess that is me investing in my new horse!
Monday 23 May- Today I am going to dance Tango this evening after work, for the first time since I saw JJ. Gosh, I had been dancing 3 times a week, but since JJ I have been so occupied, I find having a new horse so emotionally draining. I look forward to dancing as it is only a week until I go to America, leaving David with JJ. So, today JJ will be out in his field, and that will be that.
This is the end of JJ's first week. To say that he came as "quirky", so far he has not been at all quirky. In fact he has been spookily quiet. I would venture to say he has actually been the easiest horse I have had for the first week in a new home. I always regard "spookily quiet" horses with some suspicion though, I actually prefer a little more feedback on where they are at mentally so they do not suddenly wake up and take me by surprise.
Still, I can hardly complain that the horse has not put a foot wrong!
Oh, I have twice seen how he can "wake up", both times have been in his stable when he has heard something strange, and on those occasions I have actually heard his heart pounding from outside the stable as he has "made like a statue". The only other things I would like to investigate are his teeth, as he has been dropping some feed. He does not ride like he has any tooth pain, but I would like to check it out. Also I have booked the chiropractor. JJ has always been sound, but in the morning he seems a little stiff, and I would like that looked at too. I don't think there is any major problem, as he is so athletic when jumping, he has never done an uneven step. Its just the routine manintenence, I just like to check it out.
Ha Ha, I went out to turn JJ out and found he had gone back to bed for 40 winks. And, when I went out he did not get up, he just looked at me. I even went back and got the camera and took a photo, in fact that photo will become the "blog photo". It seems like JJ is feeling very comfortable in his new home with his new mum.
In fact we will have learned a lot about each other. I have learned that JJ is friendly and affectionate. He loves his mirror. He hates it if I drop his front feet when I have picked them out, he prefers them to be lowered gently to the floor. I learned that he macerates his poohs into his bed so I can't find them. I also know he does many small poohs, unlike sherlock who did few poohs but they looked like elephant poohs! I learned that he was in beautiful condition when he came, but it was a fit and lean condition, and even in this week he has "filled out". I must confess that both Sherlock and Charlie were overweight, and I will have to watch that JJ does not got he same way. I learned that JJ likes sugar beet in his feed, but does not like garlic. I learned that he drinks a lot of water in the day, but not at night.
All of these things are important to know so I can monitor any differences, pick up any potential problem, before it becomes a real problem.
Monday evening now, and my Tango lesson was cancelled. So, I came home and JJ and I went out to our canter field. I could tell that he did not do much "work" yesterday, plus it is again very windy. We tacked up and went out, and had a lovely time. JJ stood well as I dismounted to open the gate, both on the way in and out of the field, and even stood for me to re-mount both times. Because he felt fresh I did a fair bit of trot before we cantered. We looked at the barking dog, and the man with the lawnmower, but it was all OK, he just looked, offered to react, and took my advice when I asked him to keep his attention and his movement forwards. 
Tuesday- Hey, I thought the weather forecasters said this wind was going to drop??? Another very blustery morning, and today we have booked to go and ride at Sykehouse Arena. It is only just down the road, so we ride over, and spend a bit of time socialising with Di and Julie. Then, to work.
The yard area at Sykehouse is quite sheltered, and as we walked down the car park to the small arena we got the full force of the wind. Russ had been putting jumps out for the BS Show tomorrow, and JJ was very nosey to see the course being built. In fact I decided that he was looking for something to jump at, so I directed his attention forwards again. Then, he saw the HORSES, a small herd of horses in the big field, and  he became on high alert, and.....just at that moment.....der de der der.... a chain rattled against the fence and took JJ by surprise. One second we were facing one way, then next we were not. That was it. No fuss, no running off, no buck or rear, no real upset. I turned to the original direction, he was walking as if he was also crouching because SOMETHING had been scary and he did not know what, so I asked him to get on with the job, and we went smartly into the arena, and started work.
The work was better than before, more forwards. I would like to think that was my schooling, but I suspect the new surroundings, the high winds, the jumps, and the possible presence of an unknown scary chink-ey thing was the real cause of the extra energy. But, don't look a gift horse in the mouth, we did some nice work, in fact I made up a dressage test and rode it.
After his work JJ was relaxed, even in the high winds. I am learning that when he relaxes he blows his nose. We walked around the arena on the buckle end, scary monsters forgotten.
I did not have much time before work, but as we were having fun I did walk JJ off round the short block. By the end of this, on the quiet lane, we were on the buckle end, swinging along and relaxed. JJ also met what I suspect would be his very first bunch of balloons tied to the neighbour's gate. Three bunches waving in the wind in fact. He showed polite interest, and strolled on by. Champion.
JJ is now out in his field munching away. Happy horse!
Wednesday 25 May- Today JJ went to his first show with me! It was a lovely sunny morning, and Sykehouse Arena had a BS Affilliated show, but before that they do a 80cm Clear Round class.
I actually had not jumped a full course of fences on JJ before, but, again, I hear what I have said to other people coming full circle back to myself. Entering a show does not make it compulsory to DO anything! It just gives you permission to go into the collecting ring, if you would like to. And then, at the appointed time, to go into the arena. And even if you choose to do so then you don't HAVE to jump any jumps. You could just have a trot or canter round then go out again!
As I am at work this afternoon we were at the show as it started, and there were actually only two other competitors there. They were still tacking up as we warmed up, and even after we had finished there were no other competitors mounted. So, it was low key! But, Hey, I was in the fancy white jodhpurs and blue jacket, we were dressed to party!
JJ was lazy if anything! I had taken the precaution of doing 20 minutes on ground work and lungeing before we left home. In fact I did some static turns around the forehand to see if we can start to work on that lazy left hing leg he has shown. Again he moves it a lot better when he is warmed up.
In the collecting ring we did a walk/ trot/ canter and when we trotted at the first fence JJ was so lazy and flat-footed he knocked it down- our first knock down ever! My mother had to fix the fence, then we roused ourselves into some form of action, and cantered a few fences in the collecting ring. JJ was fine, a little flat in his stride, but beautifully behaved, C'ome on JJ WAKE UP!
Once in the main arena we did a lap of canter in each direction, had a bit of a look at the banners, but in a very mannerly way, and started. JJ is FAB in front of a fence, keen and bouncy. But around the edges he cruises in a rather lazy way, I think I am going to have to learn to use my leg some.
We were clear, JJ gives a really good feel, he found 80 cm VERY easy, even with a new mummy on board. We got a rosette, our first, I chose a blue one!
JJ is now grazing in his field, and I need to rush and get changed for work.
Thursday 26 May 2011- A big day planned today, and it turned out to be not a big day at all! This morning JJ had his teeth done by the horse- dentist. There were some sharp edges which were taken off and JJ was just as good as gold. I choose my horse dentist by how good he is at handling the horse as much as anything else, most crucially he gives the horse a break BEFORE he gets upset and "naughty".
Some people wait until the horse gets stressed then give it a break. They insdvertantly teach the horse that if he "plays up" then the nasty procedure will stop. This dentist is a horseman, and he started with very short bits of work, even at first just feeling around then resting, before JJ was upset. This teaches the horse that to make the unpleasant stuff stop then he just has to stand still. As this idea is reinforced then the amount of "work" can be extended. and the horse will stand good as gold, as he knows that this is how to make the unpleasant work stop.
After this JJ was turned out, while I went and did some teaching!
In ther afternoon we had a short ride on the school again. David tooks some photos. Again I find JJ a bit "one paced". He has a trot, and if you try to change it then he gets a bit confused, and starts to "go slow". He disconnects. We only stayed on the school 20 minutes or so, and as before the emphasis was on "forwards" with bit by bit picking up some contact. JJ is a bit "downhill" at present, but until he can stay connected whilst going forard into a contact then I am not in a position to correct this.
I still do not feel that I have truly got a handle on his lack of interest in schooling, but short and cheerful sessions are a good start either way.
JJ in a snaffle bridle!
Straight from here and JJ was whisked into his lorry to visit the farrier. Gary absolutely loves JJ's feet! They look wonderful, and were wonderfully shod. JJ himself was great to load, travel, and at the farrier's itself. He tied up, he tried to undo the farrier's velcro on his chaps, he tried to unpack the tool box. He was bright and clever and interested, and VERY well behaved!
Just a couple of times he showed the unusual way he has at stepping his foot under his body. But, he is sound, as ever.
Back home JJ showed how relaxed he is, while I was tying up his haynet, he was rolling! He then got up and did his other side. JJ sure does like to roll!
Friday 27 May- Gosh, JJ knows how to engratiate himself with his mother! I have just today to do one last shift at work, then I am off on holiday to go to America, and today's shift is quite an early one.
I went out to feed JJ his breakfast, and found him still curled up in bed, and when he saw me he looked pleased, but he did not get up. When I went in to get his breakfast dish he reached his pretty face over to me, and I went over and sat with him for a kiss and a fuss. Even though it was breakfast time he wanted 5 minutes with me. What a lovely horse! All of my horses have liked a cuddle in bed, but this is the first one who is willing to delay breakfast to do so!
JJ spent the majority of the day in his field, he is now accustomed to the grass, and there is already a bit less of it, so we are finding an equlibrium.
This evening I wanted to take JJ for a canter in our field in preperation for tomorrow, ehen we are going for our first spin cross country. I know that the last time JJ saw XC jumps he got somewhat overwrought,  and I wish to do all I can to prepare him so this time we just have a nice time! Even though JJ did not do much work yesterday I felt confident to try him out and about in "normal" tack rather than his usual collection of gizmos and gadgets, as we have been on the field twice already, and he has been great. We even wore the dressage saddle, and I wanted to see if we could get it together in a field a bit more with our schooling rather than the dis-interest I feel in the sand school.
I could feel that JJ was a little more reactive than when he has been hard at work, but he was very good, and contained himself. We had a fab time, and even had a "schooling breakthrough". JJ was indeed more forward. We had better work. I cannot decide if that is because he was fresher generally or if he just finds playing in a field more interesting than playing in a sand school. It could be that at the moment JJ finds engaging his bum in circling, bringing one hind leg under more to take the weight, and also in plain engagement because I have asked for it, maybe both at once is too much. He can either do nice circles, or engage a bit more.
Who knows the answer? But right now I know I have found a little keyhole to unlock some better work. Plus, we both had fun, and that is the whole point. Playing out
Saturday 28 May- Today was XC day. JJ was turned out while I did some teaching, then before we went I took the precaution of lungeing him. I was glad I did, in fact, as he certainly had some excess energy that I was glad he used whilst harmlessly circling the school!
As ever JJ loaded and travelled well, and he was great to tack up and mount. I guess in the past 2 weeks he has had 4 lorry trips, so it is a routine we have made together. I was even glad to see that he drank some water on the lorry, just a sip, but I am always happier when they drink.
We started our XC schooling with a hack around the Osberton Estate. When we started there were some other horses in the car park, that were loading up after their lesson, and I was pleased to see that JJ left them cheerfully. We had a nice trot up a sweeping grassy hillside, and then did some of the wooded tracks. Finally we went to a schooling field, where someone else was finishing their lesson.
As we rounded the corner JJ stopped suddenly, and I smiled at him. I often find that I repeat lessons I have given to other people back to myself, and this was one of those times. I have recently discussed with someone what to do if your horse stops and refuses to move. You have to make a value judgement, weather to kick and insist the horse moves as it is being nappy, or weather to be a bit more sympathetic and give the horse a minute to compose his thoughts.
If you allow a horse that is just being nappy to stand and wait then the nappyness will get worse, but if you kick forwards a horse that is genuinely startled then you may get an explosion that is more than you bargained for.
What I look for is weather I feel the horse has stopped because of "treacle feet" or "electro magnet" feet. A nappy horse feels like it is wading through treacle as it slows down, and needs kicking on. A genuinely startled horse feels more as if the world just became a giant electro magnet, and the feet are suddenly, sharply and firmly fixed to the floor. To move them the horse has to soften until the feet are free.
JJ had electro magnet feet, we were still at such a distance that I am not sure he could work out that it was, in fact, just a grey horse cantering through the trees. After about 20 seconde he worked it out, sighed, and was ready to go back to work.
We walked down to near the schooling area, and did some trot warm-up. When the other horse left we went to the schooling area and joined Mark Cavell, who was giving the lesson. I had talked to him on the phone already, and explained that JJ can get overwrought easily, and that for our first XC schooling session we just wanted a "nice time". No fancy fences, just to get the feel of working together, in the open, and by the end of the session to jump a small course of XC fences in a rhythm, through the woods.
As the other horse went out of sight JJ was a bit fidgety, but I just directed him into some walk circles as we talked, and soon the other horse was forgotten. 
The session went just as planned, we had fun, jumped some fences, nothing over 75cm, no fancy fences. To finish we strung together a small course of 7 fences, and the last 2 were downhill then uphill, and JJ was so excited I went up the last hill wearing his tail like a hat! I did not know I had bought an arab horse (!). 
We finished and I went to hack back across the estate to my lorry. We were swinging along and all was well when suddenly JJ heard something in the hedge, and leaped forwards. Gosh, JJ is Sooooooo athletic. Have you ever seen the trick when a table cloth is pulled so quickly and sharply off a table that the table cloth leaves the table, but all the plates and cutlery stay there? Well, that was me! JJ was away from under me, and I felt the saddle leave me, and I could visualise that in another split second I was going to actually be sitting on JJ's rump, so I took a huge pull on his reins to help me find the saddle again.
I found the saddle and immediatly loosed the reins again, but I thought to myself, if JJ was going to rear, then now would be the time. And.........he walked on, and stayed walking as I sorted myself out with the correct complement of a rein in each hand and a stirrup on each foot again!
JJ had not been "naughty". He had just been startled. There was no follow up. He waited for me. But, I realise that with THAT speed and athleticism, he will at some point have me off! But, when he does then that will be my fault for not keeping up, he has shown no ill manner or malice. 
We were soon back at the box, once more walking on a loose rein, and JJ was excellent, he tied to the box while I untacked and washed him off. I had travelled on my own, and I could easily manage him. He is a very cooperative horse.
Yet again JJ has been a superstar! 
Hey, I found a series of 3 videos that are good to watch, the first is on http://equisense.squarespace.com/video-1/ .
They are time limited, but available right now. They are about contact, the seat, and sitting the trot. The lady is very "all American" and watching someone on an "equiciser" is just bizarre, but there is some good information.
Sunday 29 May- Today JJ looked even stiffer than normal, which surprised me as we did not do THAT much yesterday. I even took a video of his funny movement to show the chiropractor tomorrow. However, he was in high spirits, and as we left the stable for a hack out he did the biggest, deepest cat stretch I ever did see a horse do.
I mounted up and went to do our yard gate mounted for the first time. JJ parked up, and I unlatched the gate, but, silly me, I sould have realised that as he cannot cross his hing legs under easily, he also cannot do a turn on the forehand to open the gate. He did not do anything worng, other than not be able to step through but I don't want to push him until he has been Chiropractor'ed, so I dismounted, did the gate, remounted and went for our ride.
JJ was fresh, but was a real gent, I would not say he strolled around the village, he marched more like, but no shying, no bad behaviour. A couple of times he was taken unawares, like when a group of horses in a field leaped up from a lying down position to a trotting to see JJ position, but all he did was dip, pause, then continue to walk.
I will be a lot happier when the chiropractor has been, as, so far JJ has proved the perfect horse temperamentally.
Monday 29 May- Rain rain rain......I just got up early to go and do some schooling and it is really raining. So, I had an extra cup of coffee, and had time to have a look at my computer and I found this quote. It is about mounteneering, but it resonates with me.......
“The pleasure of risk is in the control needed to ride it with assurance so that what appears dangerous to the outsider is, to the participant, simply a matter of intelligence, skill, intuition, coordination… in a word, experience. Climbing in particular is a paradoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Every move has to be worked out in terms of playing chess with your body. If I make a mistake the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing, and possibly painful. For a brief period I am directly responsible for my actions. In that beautiful, silent, world of mountains, it seems to me worth a little risk.”A. Alvarez
I like that. I have had people tell me I am brave (or stupid) for jumping some of the bigger fences I have, or for riding some of the horses with unhelpful behaviour patterns. The first line in particular says how I tackle this, I wait and think, and work out what I CAN do, and take it from there, with risk controlled to my satisfaction, and me feeling in control.
I am really NOT brave. If I don't feel in control of the risk level, I don't do it!
Then, JJ. He was in a really sweet mood today, despite the rain. We dressed for Dressage, and went in our school.
JJ is still obsessed with his reflection in his stable mirror, well, now he has found that his good buddy also joins him on the school, in the reflection of the French Doors to the house! I let him pose to himself, he makes me laugh. When I decided it was time for work though, I was strict and posing was well and truly over for the session, and he had to pay attention.
Yeah, we are making progress. The walk was more forward, with definate steps from the outset. At first he did try to come behind my leg, but he was more easily corrected, and while I was correcting him he just took the correction without the ears back and tension. Wow, BIG progress! In fact we did at least 15 minutes just celebrating the positive swinging walk, and improving the contact.
JJ previously had a way of going that was nice, he was quiet in his mouth, which I do not want to change, and he drew the rein forward. But, here he was stuck. Today I realised that his stuck-ness was because he was not really giving and drawing forwards with all of his joints, he was dropping his head all in one piece from the withers downwards, giving a bit of a dead feel. Today we had various head carriages, on request, with all of his joints adjusting, and the feel was so much more "alive" with adjustment, but still with the quiet mouth.
Nect we worked an his halt. I find that when I ask for halt JJ comes back against the contact (unless you have draw reins on, but for me that defeats the object). If I tried to fiddle for a contact then he came back even more, with ears back too, like he was confused.
Hmmm, so I asked for a halt, then put my reins to a length where he could stand comfortably, but with a contact, and fixed my hands to the saddle so he could not pull them around and initiate an argument, like a pair of fairly generous side reins, and I just sat and left it with him while he felt his way around the problem, and as soon as he relaxed into that rein length I gave him the rein, and we walked off.
This one is still a work in progress, but one thing I know with JJ is that he will be thinking about it!
We just did a quiet trot on each rein too, again asking for him to stay in front of my leg, without just dropping his head and neck in one piece, asking for some more flexibility and adjustment.
One thing I have left is any lateral flexion, I don't want to look at this until after he has been seen by the Chiropractor this evening, as I believe if he has difficulty stepping laterally under in the stable, then he will have difficulty ridden in the school too. This week I have asked him a few steps a day in-hand, and he has had some massage, other than that I have left well alone.
JJ is now in the field, again happy as Larry!
Evening time now.

The chiropractor has just been to see JJ, and as I suspected there is a physical reason why he may not find engaging and lateral work easy, the same reason he has an abnormal way of doing his lateral turns in the stable.

JJ is quite straight conformationally in his back leg, and because of this he is sometimes mechanically having difficulty in moving his stifle forwards and inwards. She thinks that if we strengthen the front of his leg (quads) then this will ease, to do this we are to do hill work (drat, we live in the “flatlands”), and also to do some ground poles so he has to really lift his leg up and forwards.

Basically he needs to be stronger in this particular place before we try more engagement or lateral work, as, frankly, at the moment he would find it VERY difficult to do. He is good at pushing back to take off for a fence, but not strong to extend the hind limb forwards.

JJ was a superstar to treat, at one point I had to assist by leaning on his back, at which point JJ took charge of holding the horse, with the lunge rein looped up in his mouth. Bless!

I am packed ready to go to America in the morning, David has taken time off to look after “Horse and Home”. When I get back we have a lesson with Jane Bartle, a ride out somewhere new in the lorry, and we have just entered our first dressage competition.

Even though JJ currently lacks engagement, his paces are still very nice, smooth and with swing. If he can hold himself together mentally I think we should score OK. Even if not, I hope we have a grand day out!
Tuesday 31 May- Just been out and fed, will go and turn out in a moment then fly. I have enjoyed "blogging" about JJ's first two weeks, but I guess the "superblogging" is done now!
It has been a better two weeks that I thought, I was expecting major bad behaviour as the horse has a history of this. I am sure he will go through a "stage" of this in due course, but, this first two weeks we have lunged, hacked, schooled, been for a SJ lesson, been to a show, been XC schooling, had his teeth, back, shoes done.
I now know what may have been causing him a difficulty some aspects of his work, a possible explanation for the previous undesireable behaviour, and we have exercises to strenthen him to make his work easier.
JJ has been a total supestar, he has been funny and kind. Full of Character, with no bad manners. Smart and intelligent, willing and  athletic. What a horse!

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  1. Cordy Coupland

    Wonderful accounting. I learn so much from reading your new learnings with a new beings. I want to learn your patience and willingness to take it slowly. I am so looking forward to seeing you. Safe travels.

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