Episode 100- The horses that have taught me.

Horses are great teachers. In this episode, I share stories of the horses that have taught me over the years such as focus, loyalty, and trust. I also introduce you to the three horses I am currently training (or that are training me). My hope is that as you hear the lessons these horses have taught me, you will remember some of the lessons that horses have taught you.

Full Transcript

Episode 100- Lessons the horses have taught me.mp3

Announcer: [00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill, this is the Stacy Westfall podcast, Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. This is Episode 100 of the podcast. If anyone had told me that recording Episode 100 would be almost as hard as recording Episode 1, I might have quit before I even got started. And I think that’s the first lesson of this episode, is how much you overthink. Something will indicate how much unnecessary pain you add to that something. Because looking back on it, absolutely. I had fear and concerns when I was starting the podcast back in Episode 1. I remember the idea that I had started a podcast once before and that I’d only got to Episode 7 and that I hadn’t continued it and that I for sure labeled that a failure because by the definition of the word, it was a failure. But I made it a failure in that different way that we used the word failure: the one where we make ourselves feel shameful. And so taking the leap with Episode 1 felt very risky. And it’s interesting to me how similar sitting down to record Episode 100 of the podcast is feeling like that. And part of it is because the subject matter that I want to talk about gets a little bit more complicated in a different way than what I normally do. And so it’s part of pushing myself out of my comfort zone that’s doing it. And it’s also interesting how sometimes we can just decide to make something such a big deal. And so for whatever reason, maybe because I went to school for all those years, when they made you do all those exercises on day 100 of school, when they would have you bring in 100 pennies or 100 whatever else. And yeah, I’m doing something big with the number 100, but I’m glad it’s here and I’m going to make it through it and then I’m going to keep on going and see how many more I can do. And maybe that’s the thing. Even though getting past number 1 was something, going past 100 almost leaves my mind a little bit spinning for like, what’s the next big number to reach for? Am I limiting myself too much? If I only look for episode 200, what should I be looking for? So I can feel my brain spinning on that. There’s lesson number 1.

Stacy Westfall: [00:03:08] Now, what I’m going to do in this episode is I’m going to use a couple of the suggestions that were sent in when I asked for ideas for Episode 100. Specifically, there are two that I’m going to use during this. One is the idea that somebody brought up that I haven’t really actually introduced you to the horses that I’m currently riding. I reference them all the time. I talk about Presto and I talk about the different horses, that I’m like, it’s Presto, Willow, and Gabbay, and I reference them. But I haven’t really told you much about their back story. So that was one of the requests that I decided to work into this. And then the other one was a request to tell about some of the horses that have taught me lessons along the way. And I really liked that one. And I sat down and started mapping it out. And it was amazing to me how many horses I put into that category. And that got me thinking when I was doing it on paper. Why did that not feel like such a big number when I was first starting it in my mind? And I think it’s because I’ve answered the question over the years. You know, I used to at the expos, when I go to a horse expo and there are a lot of people standing there, a lot of times young girls will ask me, who’s your favorite horse? And I developed the answer because, at first, it just kind of like caught me off guard. And then I realized I developed the answer that I don’t really have one favorite horse. What they feel like to me are a series of best friends. So when I look at it like that, that makes a little bit more sense to my brain because it’s pretty easy for me to say that I have a best friend now and then. I had a different best friend when I was in high school and a different best friend when I was, you know, in kindergarten. And so it kind of makes sense to me that when I move around in my regular life that I would have different best friends at different ages and stages of my life. And that’s kind of how I got used to viewing the horses when I was answering that question for people. So I didn’t really give much thought about how different the question was about kind of the best friend in a time period, kind of a horse, versus the horses that influenced me along the way. When I sat down to make that list, I kind of thought they were the same thing. Turns out they’re not the same thing. Turns out the horses that influenced me when I hit about the number of 20 and I wasn’t even into–I was barely into like my my college years with horses. I was thinking that’s a lot of horses to try to talk about in one podcast. So I’ve whittled that number down to 5 different horse stories that about horses that influenced me and the 3 horses that I’m currently riding right now. So not quite sure what I’m about to jump into, because I’ve got a suspicion that I should have tissues and water and some deep breathing exercises, but we’ll see. 

Stacy Westfall: [00:06:32] One thing that I definitely do want to make for a suggestion for you is this. As you listen to me talking about the horses, the current horses, the past horses. I want you to specifically listen, for one thing, and this is also kind of an assignment for me, because I definitely see one mistake that people make over and over again when I’m out there teaching people. And it’s a specific way that I see people hold themselves back. And the specific way that I see people hold themselves back is that they hold themselves back emotionally when they’re working with their horses. And I hope I can express this because it’s such a feeling thing when I’m when I’m teaching and I’m in that room with somebody. But if I had to vocalize it, I would say it like this because I did live it, but I’m also going to explain maybe where I got the answer to this from. But when I’m with somebody, let me let me conjure up somebody in my mind. So I’m in the riding arena and I’m teaching someone who really wants to have a great relationship with their horse and be able to get it to do something like maybe canter or maybe loading a trailer or maybe trot straight down centerline. And,a lot of times what I see people doing is holding themselves back emotionally with–when they’re working with their horses. And I think what’s happening is that they’ve got this belief that as the trainer, they should always be positive or at least neutral. You know, definitely negative thoughts should not cross your mind, should not be upset, not be frustrated, not be angry. And I believe that that’s half true or it’s also half false, because this is what I want to try to get across: what I want to try to get across is that when you’re working with horses, horses have an amazing ability to read your intention, your energy, whatever it is you want to call it. And when there’s a conflict in you, like let’s say that you want to get the horse to do a transition from a walk to a lope. And you you want to do something like that. What happens a lot of times is that when it’s not working, I see riders that are kind of all bottled up with this frustration. And a lot of times if I start asking them, it’s actually they’re experiencing it like a frustration with themselves is what they’ll say. And I’m not doubting that they’re frustrated with themselves. But what I’m thinking is that. It’s just this bottled up, pent up energy that’s not really–it’s not not there when you pretend it’s not there and the horses know it. And the problem with this is that you’re not being true to yourself. This might sound like a crazy assignment, but in that moment, maybe the best thing you can do is dismount, take a deep breath, and have a moment with yourself about–like talk it out loud or do something to actually move through that emotion and figure out where it’s coming from. Because you’re not going to make any more progress with your horse if you stay on, keep it bottled up, pretend it’s not there, and you keep on going. So it’s definitely not that I’m saying you should be out there riding your horse and just be on this emotional roller coaster of, you know, you’re feeling upset and you’re frustrated, you’re angry and you’re just like expressing all of it all in one moment. And you’re not just kind of like randomly going everywhere. But there is so much truth in the fact that you really need to figure out a way to actually admit that you’re having some of those feelings and figure out how to move and process through them and figure out which part of that is coming from this transition from a walk to a lope and which one of this is something you’re carrying forward with you because you’re afraid to put that much pressure on the horse. There are several layers here, but the one I want you to really think about is the emotional part. Because I think people try to only bring the positive emotion into the arena with them. And I’m just saying that you’ve got to be aware that that anger or frustration or other things, whether it’s directed at, you know, whatever it’s directed at, you’ve got to figure out a way to acknowledge it so that you can then actually move past it. And there are days that I will say to myself, I’m feeling frustrated with this horse and I don’t judge myself harshly with it. It actually gives me the freedom to be like, OK, what’s going on? Is it really me? Is it really the horse? What part of the horse is the horse trying to tell me that it’s tired or sore or anything else? Is it trying to give me feedback about what I did yesterday or what I did last week? Or, you know, it helps open it up when I name it. And it’s kind of interesting because when I’m talking to you about some of the stories of the horses, it’ll be interesting to see what emotions you might hear come up in me, because my assignment that was making me really uncomfortable for this podcast was the assignment of actually talking to you about some of the stories that might actually be emotional and that can be a little bit out of my comfort zone at times. So. You know, when I think back about how maybe I came across this idea of being able to express these feelings of, you know, frustration or anger and not being afraid of doing that even around the horses. And again, this isn’t at the horse. And this is like dismount and deal with it kind of stuff, not repress it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:12:51] When I think back about it, it’s crazy to me that it goes all the way back to 6-year-old me riding my first pony, Misty. And my first pony, Misty, would be hands down the horse– equine, if I want to call her that, because she was a pony–but she was for sure the horse I fell off from more times than any other horse in my life to date. And I really hope for my sake that I don’t fall off another one ever that many times because this would be a bad age to start taking that up as a habit. I fell off her so many times I would never be able to count it. And the majority of them were things like, you know, I’m riding her bareback, I’m trotting through a field, she sticks her head down to eat grass and I simply slide down her neck. But the number of times that I declared that I hated her or that she hated me was also pretty big. And there were definitely frustrated moments from my 6-year-old self and, you know, angry versions of this. And to my mom’s credit. She would never let me express any kind of angry actions towards Misty, but she never robbed me of the feeling of frustration or anger. She never told me not to feel that. What she did instead was she would explain to me how maybe there was another way to look at it. If I looked at it from Misty’s point of view, like maybe Misty didn’t try to dump me, maybe she just stopped to eat some grass and I fell off. And so I love that when I go back into my memory and I think about this, my mom didn’t try to take away the part where I was angry or frustrated or upset, even though it was clearly directed at the pony. And I was clearly judging the pony. But what she did so beautifully was that she would show me the way that Misty could be looking at it, and she would also give me some other ways. And she made me practice there. When I got a little bit older, she would say, “What do you think she could have been thinking?” And she was training me to reframe it and look at it from another angle. And that really was a big deal. And when I look back, you know, it really showed me that I could look at things another way, that there were other perspectives, which is going to actually be what makes my storytelling later so difficult for me because there’s so many stories that can be told from so many different angles, because I love that I learned how to do that when I was young. And I love that my mom never told me that I shouldn’t cry or be upset or be angry and that she allowed me to have those emotions and offered me that other option and then let me choose. And I think that was really valuable. And I know you’re listening, Mom, so thank you. And with that, I’m going to grab some more tissues and then introduce you to my first equine instructor.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:08] The first horse that I want to talk about is again, my pony, Misty, and the one of the words that really popped into my mind when I was taking some notes about what to talk about with Misty was the word focus. And it was interesting because the story I just told about sliding down her neck and falling off and falling off and falling off was, sliding down her neck was a regular occurrence. And this was partially because I did ride bareback so much and also because I had an interest in kind of going fast, which, you know, 6-year-old self that was trotting in cantering, just regular trotting and cantering, and then also jumping. And I really think that when I look back, one of the strongest lessons my mom taught me early on with specifically Misty was when I was taking my little baby jumping lessons with Misty, was my mom teaching me to focus on where I wanted to be. And so in this case, since I wanted to jump over the little tiny jumps that were set up using the pop cans and, you know, a railing. Since I want to be on the other side of the jump and she had a tendency to want to stop and eat the grass because this was a chronic problem with the pony, you know. The–the lesson for me was that one of looking up, looking over it, looking past the object, and, and keeping her moving and not looking down at it, and myself kind of stopping at the jump. And I remember having me–I remember her having me do this over and over and over again. Not that she was drilling me, but that she wouldn’t let me stop until I had kind of figured out and been successful and then she would let me stop. So if I was in the middle of sitting on the ground crying about the pony hating me, she’d be like, totally fine. You’re just going to do it one more time and then we can get rid of the pony again. She didn’t rob me of anything. She just made me complete what I started and then left me the flexibility that we could then get rid of the pony after that, which, of course, predictably, 6-year-old who then jumps the jump, you know what they want to do? They want to jump the jump again with zero idea that this could possibly fail again. And so–so what I love about that lesson is that I remember when I was competing in Road to the Horse in 2006 and I’m riding Popcorn, the horse that I had trained in 3 hours. I had 1 hour the first day, 2 hours the second day, and those were all in a round pen. And then they took down the round pen and we had to ride in the full blown coliseum and ride over obstacles and weave through polls and ride over tarps. And I remember in the middle of that–oh, yeah, if that wasn’t enough, they turned a microphone on us live. So we had to be explaining what we were doing the whole way through. And it’s so funny to me that as I’m riding this horse with thousands of people in the Coliseum watching me, waiting for, you know, a wreck to happen, I remember as I’m riding up to the tarp, I remember so clearly being like hearing my mom’s voice being like, look up and look over the other side of it. That’s where you want to be. And if you ever have a chance to see that video, I actually say it out loud. I say, this reminds me so much of my mom teaching me to look up over past that obstacle and continue on forward.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:49] And so. Misty has so many stories, but that’s the little one that I wanted to share with you, but now I’m going to sneak a second one in because I got to grow up with a mom who let us play with the pony. We would go down to the barn. And I grew up in Maine and we would get quite a bit of snow and we would go down, my brother and I, and put a halter on Misty and lead her up to the front porch on the house. And it would make a little path, you know, because we were wading through the snow that felt like it was waist deep to us. I’d have to ask mom to know, but I was only like 6 or 7. So I was pretty short. And we would go wading up. And we would–we would–one of us would hold the pony and the other one would climb on bareback and the halter’s there. And we would let her go and kick and she would run back to the barn because she’s a horse. And that’s what she would do if given the choice in the middle of the winter, run back to the friends and the food. And we would ride her and when she took the turn around the end of the house, we would jump off into the snowbank and we would repeat that over and over and over again. So I had many, many happy days with her and many crying, she hates me days. So again, lots of emotions with that first one. And I owned her as my only equine partner from the age of 6 until the age of 12.

Stacy Westfall: [00:21:21] The next horse that made it on my list is kind of an interesting one, because I didn’t own the horse and it was in my horse, my life for a very short amount of time. And I’m not even going to use the horse’s name. So the horse actually belonged to my friend, Jamie. Again, I was still pretty young. And this is the horse I have referenced before in the podcast that we accidentally taught how to sit. So that short story was that we were out riding in a plowed driveway up in Maine and, you know, it was too much snow for riding anywhere else. And so we were just riding around on the plowed part of the driveway and Jamie backed her horse up into a snowbank and the horse accidentally sat down. And we were little girls, we started laughing, thought it was really funny. And the horse was real quiet. So it just sat there and then it got up and I was like, oh, do it again, do it again. See if you can do it again. And she backed him into it. And sure enough, he sat down again and by that summer she could back him into any small piles of dirt or even kind of a ditch area, and he would just sit down. He was really quiet, really good minded little guy. And and so there were all these lessons, but he wasn’t my horse so they were all kind of like, that was the closest one to, you know, that firsthand kind of experience with him. But the one experience that I definitely shared with her was losing him. And he was the first horse that I knew personally like that, that died. And I just remember how devastated I was because he was a young horse and we were young kids and we were all having, you know, a great time. And then, you know, he. He, if I remember right, I don’t even have to go back and ask for details because I think he was a cryptorchid, actually, stallion and went in for surgery and, you know, had to be done out of state. And he–he had some kind of complication and didn’t make it. And so it was like this shock because although he was going in for something, it was not something that anybody thought he was going to die from. And so that was such a shock. And, you know, just that first taste of really loving these horses and then really feeling that devastation. And I just–I just remember when I was writing this list of horses that influenced me, I think sometimes it’s easy to remember the first horse, like Misty or, you know, a horse like Roxy that did so much. But there were so many horses on my list that left these little, momentary things on my heart that even if I don’t know their names–I know this horse’s name–but when I went to college and I was training all these different horses, and then when I graduated, I was training all these horses that might only be in for 30, 60, 90 days, even if I don’t remember their name. It’s just like when you meet someone. Have you ever met someone and talk to them just for a brief amount of time? It could be standing in line while your Christmas shopping or it could be on an airplane or just, you know, some random encounter with something happens where it really leaves a mark. Yeah. I wanted to include this horse because I think that happens in life and I think it’s good to acknowledge that that can happen in a momentary thing with a horse that you don’t even need the name of.

Stacy Westfall: [00:25:16] I’m not sure how you view your life, but for me, one major dividing point was, you know, when I left for college. So that was kind of that before graduating from high school and after graduating from high school. That was one of those big defining lines. And what’s interesting for me is that when I was before graduating from high school, I pretty much had two horses. I had my pony Misty, and then I had my horse Bay, and those were primarily the two horses that I had. Although I did breed Bay and she had a foal my senior year of high school. So technically, Scrapper sneaks into that story just slightly, but he definitely comes more strongly into my college and above years. And so the next horse that that I wanted to talk just a little bit about that really strongly influenced me was my horse Bay. You’ll never guess her color, but her registered AQHA name was Bay Baby James. And, you know, she was such an interesting horse because she was a 5-year-old when I got her and just didn’t have that much training. And she was so strong-willed. Even when I look back now, even though I didn’t know what I was doing, she was definitely that strong-willed, fiery kind, and I loved it. And what cracks me up right now is that Gabby, the bay that I have right now, they remind me a lot of each other because there’s this strong willed, fiery-ness about them and they just make me laugh. But they’re also very confident horses. And so Bay was this super confident horse that was just so much fun for me to have at that age. And we had so many different adventures that trying to figure out which one to share with you was a really hard thing. And, it just comes back to me to, you know, the most pivotal moment with–hands down, without a doubt that she gave me, it was a long time coming because we spent years together. We spent from the time that I was 12 years old. And when this story takes place, I was a senior in college. So Bay and I had been together for a long time, but the most pivotal moment that she ever gave me was the one when I took my husband home to visit my parents because we were engaged and we were going to get married and we went home to be with my family. And I took him over to obviously meet the horses. And our horses and Bay was–Bay was out in this big field with other horses and we were walking up through the field, a group of us, and the big herd saw us and headed running back to the barn. And, you know, at that point, nobody’s going to stop them, because if you’ve got that many horses running back to the barn, you’re not going to get them stopped. So we just decided to watch them run by and they went running past. And as the whole group passed us, she just peeled away and came running straight up to me and I promptly broke into tears. And so it was just one of those moments where I think especially for me at that period in life, I had been going to an equine college for several years and part of being at the equine college was learning all of what I call the nuts and bolts of horse training. But what it kind of did for me accidentally as a side effect was it it took away some of that belief that the horses really wanted to be in this relationship with us. It gave me that feeling that they were kind of in it just because of the pressure and the release of pressure and this kind of a feeling of, they’re just kind of doing it because they have to and they don’t have a choice in it. And I didn’t believe that growing up, I mean, that didn’t even cross my mind when I was growing up, maybe because I had no idea how to apply pressure and release really, but also just because that thinking that that kind of mechanical thinking wasn’t part of my life with horses.And so I just assumed that they were in this relationship because I was there and they were there and we were having an experience together. So that’s kind of what an experience and relationship is. And so I just assumed it could work both ways. And when she peeled off from the herd and came running up to me. Even to this day, when I replay it in my mind, it feels like it came straight out of a movie, it feels like it just came out of a movie. But it was my real life and I didn’t know squat about training a horse for liberty or anything when I had had her. So this was her pure reflection of our relationship. And there are hundreds of little stories of how–how I negotiated with this strong willed horse, often not successfully, but thankfully they weren’t like head to head, you know, danger zone things. They were more like I couldn’t get her loaded in the trailer for, you know, days and days and days on end. So I couldn’t get her loaded in the trailer. There wasn’t force involved. I got on a rode her miles, miles and miles and miles around the lake to the new place. And so it was like it was it was more like a chess match than it was like a power struggle. So I didn’t have the growing up where you were, like, forcing them out of the trailer. When the trailer didn’t work, you got on a rode them even if that took you 2 and a half hours or whatever. I don’t remember how many hours that I have to ask my mom, but that was the kind of stuff that we did. So it was more of this, you know, kind of a matching game like that, so, so interesting. But she, you know, Misty was such a well-trained little pony. If you look on my website, you’ll see on my “about” page a picture of her rearing on command, because that was another thing that she did. And she was just such a well-trained little pony who was really just kind of honest when you put beginners on her and then she would get a little bit more like she’d test you out if you knew a little bit more. She was just kind of a really smart little pony and then I had this strong willed mare that really influenced me. Yeah. They taught me so many lessons.

Stacy Westfall: [00:32:13] The next horse on my list is Bay’s foal, Scrapper. And he’s the one that I said was born my senior year of high school. And it was interesting because when I look at the lessons that he taught me. Again, I owned him from the time he was born until the time he was 6 years old. And then I sold him as a 6-year-old and he was away from me for 6 years. And then I bought him back. And he is still with me. He’s with friends up in Maine and he’s 27 years old.So it’s kind of an interesting thing when I think about it because there were lots of lessons. He went to college with me. He was born my senior year of high school and I went to the University of Findlay, which is a 4 year equine program. And you were allowed to bring a horse. And I brought him to school as a sophomore and he went to my sophomore, junior, and senior year of college. So Scrapper pretty much has a college degree. Well, when I think back to, you know, pivotal things, I think the most pivotal thing that I remember with him was I took him to college. I mean, he was born I was so excited when I had bay bred and when he was born and when I took him to college and all the dreams that I had for him. And I learned so much with him over those years. But the real interesting thing to me is that I got married right out of college. And that next year I took him to a horse show and my husband and I were broke, as you know, many newlyweds are. So we had, you know, barely making ends meet. And I took him to this horse show and someone asked if he was for sale. And, you know, I’d been around the horses for long enough. And he had so much training and part of me wanted to sell him because this was what professionals did. And part of me wanted to keep him because he was this piece of my childhood. And I’d gone to school with him and he’d been part of the family all this time. And so I was really torn and I ended up selling him for 5000 dollars because that was a ton of money to us as newlyweds. And I cried and I swore to him that I would buy him back. Now, it gets kind of interesting because I sold him for 5000 dollars and they turned around and sold him for 20000 dollars is basically I didn’t know what the market value of my own horse was because I obviously hadn’t been looking at it like that. And yet a lot of training by the time he’d gone to that many years of school with me. But you know that aside from that, I really had promised him that someday I would buy him back. And so at first, you know, selling him, it seemed like a good idea. And and we, you know, used the money. And I kept tabs on him and I watched him. Well, looking back and–I just looked it up to verify it with the AQHA record–he had–I sold it and he was gone from me for six years. In that six years, he had 5 different owners. And on the downside, he had 5 different owners and he kind of jumped around a bunch on the upside, he picked up a bunch of AQHA points doing horsemanship, showmanship. You know, he was shown in trail and Western Riding. He really just picked up most of his AQHA points in horsemanship and showmanship, which is, you know, a big deal here in Ohio because it’s a very competitive state. And so he had, you know, some–some good experiences and some bad experiences while he was gone from me. But it was really interesting because I really had made the promise that I’d buy him back. But even along the way, I remember walking into a horse show one time and I was showing riding horses. And at the facility we would pull in and we would show out of the trailer. So that would mean we didn’t get a stall, pulled in, unloaded the horses. You’d have to be tied to the side of the trailer, saddle up, and you’d have to walk up through the barns to go sign up for the next class. And so I remember walking up through the barn and there’s hundreds of horses at the show and I remember out of the corner of my eye thinking that one’s acting kind of weird. And I go up and I sign up and I’m coming back through and this horse’s acting kind of weird. And I look at it and, you know, have you ever seen the horses when they’re wearing layers of blankets and then they’ve got the hoods on and all you can see is their eyeballs and otherwise they’re just all blankets. This is what this horse was. But I realized it was Scrapper. And he’s staring at me. He’s the horse that was acting so weird because he had himself smashed up against the front of the stall trying to see me because he recognized me. And so, yeah, it was–I definitely always, I mean, all along my life there have been these little places where a part of me has–has tried to believe what you’ll hear with the system that says they’re horses and they don’t love you. They’re–they’re not like a dog that’s loyal to you. They’re not like this. They’re not like that. And I just don’t believe it because I have too many experiences. I mean, why on earth is this horse smashing himself up against the front of the stall except to give me a message? Oh, Scrappy. And so, you know, he was, he was, he had a pretty good life at that time. And so– but I kept an eye on him and I noticed him changing hands. And I even went down to–there’s a big sale called Tattersalls Sale. And I even got a group together. We went down and watched him and I sat there with a bidder’s number ready to buy him back and he sold for more than I could afford that year. And and so this went on for 6 years. And then I ended up buying him back when he was 12-years-old. And, you know, he had some soundess issues. He didn’t have the best conformation and he’d been ridden hard. And I bought him back slightly lame, which is definitely good for negotiating price. And he’s now 27-years-old and he’s standing in Maine and he’s definitely more lame. And we’re definitely walking through that final stage of life with him, which is a whole nother story that I’m not ready to talk about right now. But, you know, when I think about Scrapper, the word that comes to mind is loyalty because, yeah, he was probably the first horse that. You know, really that I made some of those really hard decisions with. And I think sometimes when people hear me discuss possibly selling horses that I have now–it’s not that I don’t get emotionally attached to the horses, it’s also that I do believe that the right thing can happen. I put myself into their lives, if I sell a horse, I keep an eye on them. You know, so if I sell a horse, I know where they’re at the last horse I sold, I know where he’s at. The horse before that that I sold I know where he’s at. I know where they’re at. And so it–it lightens the load a little bit. But I’m telling you, once you invite one into your heart, there’s nothing that’s going to lighten the load. So anyway, that’s my story of loyalty that goes both ways with Scrapper.

Stacy Westfall: [00:40:07] I’m going to take a little break and talk about my current horses right now before I share with you the fifth and final horse that I’ve chosen in this reflective, horses that have taught me lessons podcast. And I want to go over some of the current horses that I’m riding because someone pointed out to me that I referenced them a lot, but I haven’t really told much of their back story. And so the 3 horses that I’m currently riding right now are Willow, Presto, and Gabby. And Willow is a 9-year-old mare that my husband and I bred and raised. And I owned her mother, which was and Maggie, who’s a full sister to Roxy. So she’s bred the same way as the black mare that I did the bareback and bridleless with. And some of you have seen the video where I’m riding Roxy bareback and bridleless and there’s a dun mare that’s beside me that is at liberty. And I’m at the Quarterhorse Congress giving a demonstration and we’re doing like figure eights and lead changes and stuff. And that is Willow’s mother. And Willow’s sire is the horse that I won the Congress freestyle in 2011 with Can Can Vaquero. And so owned her mother, owned her sire, and raised her. And at the time we had bred quite a few foals and we were trying to downsize. And I actually chose to sell her as a weanling. And sold her as a weanling. And then that next year her sire died and 4 years later, the girls that had bought her had said, boy, she just never grew. And so I went and looked at her. And sure enough, there she stands. You guys have seen videos and pictures, probably if you’ve been on social media, she’s just under fourteen hands, so she’s pretty tiny. And so I bought her back as a 4-year-old. So apparently Willow was meant to be with me. So I sold her and I bought her back. So she is back with me and she has been a blast. I bought her back as a 4-year-old. She’s now 9 and she was un-started. She was so little they just had–I mean, they’d let her around and done, you know, that kind of stuff. But so I started her under saddle as a 4-year-old and took my time. And I’ve done the training. And she’s the one that I won my bronze in traditional dressage last year with. And she’s been, you know, doing well in the Western dressage. And, you know, she knows all the reining moves. I just haven’t gotten around to showing her in reining yet. But that’s on the list of things to do coming up in the future. So there’s Willow for you. You know, it’s interesting because with the horses that I’m currently training, I try to keep an open mind. So I don’t always really label them heavily. I try not to until I have this more complete picture of them. But anyway, I’ll tell you one quick story about Willow. The word that always comes to mind with Willow is intense. She is just such an intense little horse and it can work for me or it can work against me. One of the ways that it showed up once that I just remember thinking was so funny was the first time I started teaching her to slide. So, you know, at that point I’d been riding her for a little while because it’s not like on, you know, day three, I’m sliding. So, you know, I’d been riding for a little while and I decided to teach her to slide. Well, you know, she’d been stopping, but she hadn’t been sliding. There’s always a first slide, and so I just went loping down through there and said, whoa, knowing that she’s not going to know how to slide, but you got to start somewhere, said, whoa. And then pulled her into the ground. That just means you, like, stop them nice and smooth, back them up a little bit, roll back, and do it again. And the very first time I did it. She obviously didn’t do it well because she didn’t know what I was asking, but as soon as I rolled back and I loped out of that, her little ears went back and she felt tight as a drum. She was so tense. And I told Jesse–he was riding with me at the time–I said, you better watch her because I think she’s going to kill the ground on the next stop. And sure enough, like, I lope down through there and she just had this focused, intense look. And when I said, “whoa,” it was like she was thinking, you will not trick me twice. And she just stopped so hard. It was incredible and still not like a plus anything, but just really hard and tension, and so. But what’s so funny about that is that I wasn’t being hard on her, that’s how intense she is. She does not like feeling like she’s made a mistake. She will work her heart out for you. But she’s really challenging at times because in the same way that she’s really intense in the way that she’ll try like that, she can be really intense in other ways that are not nearly as useful. For example, a few years ago I wrote about going into–actually it must have been last spring, feels like forever ago at this point. But I went into a show and the very early beginning of the year and I took my coat off and it was in dressage show, a Western dressage show, I think. Actually, I don’t remember now I’d have to go look. Anyway, dressage for sure, because they had the little tiny railing that goes around the arena. And I took my coat off and I dropped it on the railing. Granted I was mounted on top of her when I took my coat off and I reached over and I dropped it off from her back and she was perfectly fine with it. And then I rode off and went to ride around the end of the arena and I couldn’t get anywhere near the end of the arena because my coat was there. So this is how Willow’s intensity can go wrong, because she got it in her head that this was the boogeyman, even though she’d been involved in placing it there and had no problem with that. But when she gets it in her head, she can get kind of intense in that kind of way, too. So that’s a little bit about Willow. Bred, raised her, sold her when she was about, I’m trying to remember, 4 or 5 months old. So, sold her as a weanling about maybe 5–6 months. Anyway, sold her as a weanling, end of that summer, and bought her back as a 4-year-old and then made her my project pony. And we’re still uncovering all the possibilities. But that’s Willow in a nutshell.

Stacy Westfall: [00:47:16] Another horse that I’m currently riding right now is Presto. And definitely because I’ve covered him pretty much from the time that he was born all the way through now, I’m guessing that if you haven’t seen him and his back story, you should probably just go to my YouTube channel and look at the nurse foal’s list there or go to my website and search the post by nurse mare foals. And you can see that I’ve had Presto since he was about 30 days old. He went into Last Chance Corral, which is a rescue for horses that specializes in nurse mare foals, when he was 3 days old. And I picked him out immediately, but he was so sick they wouldn’t let me bring him home until he was about 30 days old. And I’ve had him ever since. He’s now a 4-year-old and he’s been super interesting because he’s just so different than all the quarter horses I traditionally am working with. And there are just some differences because he’s a–most likely the–the pretty–the guesses that he’s Appaloosa, Thoroughbred, Percheron. And I think that when you look at the pictures and videos of him, you can see all of those pieces. And and so he’s just a really interesting horse to work with for a number of reasons. The whole orphaned foal raised by humans, that dimension, the fact that he’s, again, like I’m used to working with a lot of these horses that I know they’re–I know Willow. I know Willow’s mother. I know Willow’s grandmother. I’ve trained, like, all the way up through these different horses. So I know a lot of them fairly well through generations. And then there’s Presto who is–right now I’m labeling him as a slow but creative thinker. So he is not a horse you want to have make a quick decision. If he doesn’t know the answer really well, if he’s super solid in the answer, he’s probably going to get it right because he’s going to go to that answer. If he has to make a snap decision, the odds are it’s going to be a terrible snap decision. That is actually a significant difference from some of the other horses. So like a lot of the horses that have been bred in a certain way and for generations, it’s interesting to see how they think in a specific way. And I think that’s true among different breeds, which is why they lean towards different strengths. And it makes sense. I mean, if you’re going to breed a horse to do bullfighting, you’re going to use the ones that are going to make quick decisions and be really good at bullfighting. You know, if you’re going to have a racehorse, you want it to make certain types of decisions. If you’re going to have a horse that pulls a plow or a carriage, you want it to make certain decisions. And so I think some of this breeding that maybe sometimes we don’t look at with the horses quite as specifically, we’re pretty accustomed to looking at it that way with dogs and accepting that, you know, if you buy a border collie, it’s probably going to show some of these traits. Well, there are different things that happen with the horses like that. But Presto’s just unique because he’s got a whole mixture of things going on. But I’m going with slow but creative, and here’s why. I mean, the slow you can observe a lot of different times with him, but with the creative, it’s really interesting. He loves that equine activity ball that I have. He loves rolling that thing around the arena. He loves chasing it around the round pen. He loves putting it underneath his belly and standing over it like a nesting hen. No idea why, it’s a little weird, but because he likes to do that. He really likes to figure out how to get it under his belly. And I can’t remember if I’ve told the story in the podcast or not, but it’s worth repeating and I will try really hard this winter to get it on video if he still does it. But, I caught him one day and he was standing in the middle of the round pen and I was riding at the other end of the arena. So my round pen is set up in one end of my arena during the winter time when it’s icy and snowy here. And he was out there playing with the ball and I knew he was trying to get it under his belly, but it was too big because it was the one that’s a little bit taller than his belly. And he was–he kept side passing over to it, but it wouldn’t go under because his belly would roll it away. And I looked down there one moment and he would side pass up to, and he actually lifted the leg that was further–his hind leg that was further away from this ball and moved up across diagonally to the upper part of this ball and pulled it underneath his belly. And I thought, I’m clearly hallucinating. There’s there’s no way he’s worked out how to do that, and there’s no way that there’s no way he just did that. That had to have been my imagination. And I literally, I was like, I’m just, yeah. I just have to be–and I was like, I’m telling you, this is like this conflict in myself. And so I really didn’t think that much of it beyond thinking, I really think I saw that. But I’m clearly arguing with myself. And then again, a few days later, I was watching much closer when I thought I saw this developing. And sure enough, he did it again both times. I only–like I had my cell phone on me, but you couldn’t see well from that angle. And every time I tried to get close to him, it–he would stop playing with the ball and he would come over to see me. So I’ve got a plan this winter. If I start seeing signs of this, I now own a GoPro and I plan on strapping it to the side of the round pen and seeing if I can catch this on film. So Presto, slow thinker. You don’t want to sign him up to make fast decisions because you might jump off a cliff or in front of a truck. But when he’s trained, I think he’s going to be solid and reliable. But he does not make good quick decisions if rushed. And he’s definitely a creative, out-of-the-box thinker.

Stacy Westfall: [00:53:41] Well, we’re down to the final horse that I’m riding currently, and that will be then followed by the final horse story I have to share with you today. And the final horse that I’m riding right now that I want to talk about, also the only other one I’m riding also, is Gabby. And Gabby is a 5-year-old mare and she is a granddaughter of Roxy. And I started her when she was 2-years-old and she was owned by Greg, the same man that you can hear in the video when I’m–when I’m standing there at the in gate getting ready to ride in on Roxy. You can hear Greg being announced as the owner. And so Greg bred Roxy, and that’s how he ended up with Gabby’s mother. And then he bred Gabby’s mother. And this is how Gabby came into existence. And he sent Gabby to me as a 2-year-old to start under saddle. And I fell in love with her, but he had no plans to sell her. And after I’d been training her for–I forget how many months, but, you know, it was…must have been early in her 3-year-old year. So I’d been training her for a little while. And he just happened to ask me one day, like what I thought she’d be, you know, worth if he sold her. And I honestly answered, I don’t know, but I’ll ask Jesse. And as soon as I called Jesse, I said, Greg just mentioned selling her. I want her. And and so that’s how Gabby entered my life and, you know, it’s interesting because she is, I mentioned, she reminds me a lot of my first horse, Bay. She is strong willed and she is a fiery horse and she was almost standoffish and a little bit like a stallion because she’s just so strong willed at the beginning. And sure enough, just with that slow, like, you know, earning their trust and, you know, basically just not dominating them, but also just being really persistent. She has really bought in and she is ridiculously sweet and strong willed, which is a really funny combination if you’re around the barn and you’re around her. And it was very funny because when Roxy was in training, when I started doing the bridleless with her and she just had all the confidence behind the scenes, we used to call her, Foxy Roxy, because she just always seemed like she just carried herself with so much presence. And if people took out a camera, it was always like she was striking a pose, striking a pose, and it just felt like she just knew. And it was funny because it wasn’t how she was when she started. Roxy wasn’t–she was very insecure when she started, but she ended up earning the nickname behind the scenes, you know, with us. She’d be like, we’d call her Foxy Roxy. And it’s so funny because last year when I had Gabby at the Western Dressage World Show, a friend started calling her Gorgeous Gabs. And so behind the scenes, it’s Gorgeous Gabs or Gorgeous Gabby. And so gorgeous Gabs Gabby is gorgeous. I don’t know what to tell you about her because the only thing that comes to mind is, fits like a glove. When I ride her she just–it just feels like all the stars align. I love, love riding her. It’s interesting because I have the feeling that if all the pieces come together, you know, she could be a masterpiece for me. She could just be a masterpiece that I train like–that’s how Roxy felt. It just felt like a masterpiece, just like, oh, I want to show the world what you have. But then it’s interesting because maybe that’s not in her path. I don’t know the answer. What I know is that I’m in the middle of a dance that at moments can be excruciating because it’s the dance of feeling so much potential in a horse like Gabby, but also knowing that I have to let it develop. You can’t force that kind of potential to develop. And, you know, she ran into a, you know, soundness problem this–this year when I was riding her, where she got a stone bruise in her foot and that, you know, an abscess, actually. Sorry, like she–I’m guessing it was a bruise that turned into like an abscess and an abscess at the end of the day doesn’t end up usually being anything. But she just kept having these residual soundness things that I couldn’t identify. So I took her to the vet and they ended up diagnosing it as an abscess that traveled up the quarter line of her foot and essentially made a blind quarter crack. So it’s like she keeps running into these little things like this that keep slowing me down. And it’s interesting because I could choose to be, like, frustrated by it. And there’s a piece of me that is so longing to reveal her potential, to uncover it, to develop it, that it’s–Yeah, it just makes me like I’m shaking my arms really quick. I just want to do that so badly. But at the same time, when something like that happens, I think, well, you know, she’s only 5. She must have needed some more time off because she just earned herself a few months off. She did, last year, win two Western Dressage world titles as a 4-year-old, when I took her down to Oklahoma City and showed her down there. I would not have taken her to Oklahoma City this year to show her because she’s just barely coming off from the blind quarter crack incident. So I wouldn’t have hauled her that far. But because the Western Dressage World Show was online, I went ahead and entered her. And again, it was another one of those moments when I’m making the videos where it’s like, I’m longing to finish her, to bring her to her full potential, and show people what I can feel. And yet I know the dance is that I have to let it develop. And I also know the dance is that it might never line up in the cards. And that is one that I will do everything in my power to help it line up. But I also know life doesn’t work that way. When I lost Willow’s dad in 2011, you know, he was a young horse and I would have imagined that I was going to have him for many, many more years. And he just had a freak bone spur arthritis that severed his spinal column. And there you can go back and find it on my blog. It was just devastating. And I know that some times the path that I see isn’t the path that ends up happening. So, I hope I get to show you guys the masterpiece that Gabby could be. Because you’re going to have to wait and see on that one, just like I am. Which kind of naturally leads me into the final horse that I want to share a story with you and discuss, and that horse would be Roxy.

Stacy Westfall: [01:01:09] And it’s so interesting because Roxy would be Gabby’s grandmother. Roxy is easily my most famous horse. Roxy is the horse that will be interesting to see if any horse can eclipse, can, can match, can get out from underneath that shadow of. And that is not to say that Roxy shouldn’t cast a big shadow, but it is to say that I hope other horses can be seen also despite of the fact that Roxy was such a big–is such a big, you know, horse to follow in the footsteps of. And so I’m kind of careful when I’m thinking about Gabby to be careful about that and even in my mind not to do that to them. I try to let them each develop in their own way. But with Roxy, it’s so interesting to think about all the different stories that I have with her. And I’m going to share one that I don’t think I’ve ever shared before, which is going to be a challenge. But when I was writing down words, the word with Roxy was trust. And what was so interesting about that being the word for Roxy is that she started out so untrusting. When I ride Willow and Willow is just so insecure at moments, there’s moments when I–when it’s just like, yeah, I’ve been there before. Roxy was insecure. Now, interestingly, Roxy was not as intense as Willow. Roxy was really insecure. But when I earned her trust and when that relationship developed, it jus–once we reached this–I always look at training them as it almost feels like a rainbow. It feels like this arc that’s like a rainbow. And there’s so much training that goes in–in that beginning of that climbing that mountain, that first side of that rainbow, but then once you hit that peak and you go to the other side, boy, it just snowballs in such a good way down the other way. And once that happened with Roxy, that’s when when the more magical looking stuff started to happen. And and it’s interesting because there’s all these different show things. But my favorite memory, I have mentioned before, has nothing to do with showing. It has to do with the fact that I did a lot of showing with Roxy and I would come to feed her. And I always put her right beside the feed stall. There were a lot of times I took her to shows and she was the only horse I was hauling at the time. So I would have a tack stall that would have the feed in it and then I would have her stall right beside it. And she loved to eat. And so I would walk in and I always wanted to get her some hay before she had any grain or anything. And I would toss the hay over the wall. And I always thought it was so funny that she got to the point where she could hear me coming and she would hear me unlocking the lock and I would see her standing there with her head cocked to the side like a dog does because she knew the hay was going to come over the wall. And I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s because not a lot of horses cock their heads exactly the same way. But that made me laugh so hard. And every time I see one that kind of cocks their head–and you don’t see it, I don’t see very often. But when I just remember cocking her head like that and it would be funny because if I was stalled at a show where I was there for several days, people around me, like at the neighboring stalls, they would say, we can tell when you are coming, but we can’t hear you. But we can see her start cocking her head and acknowledging that she hears you coming. So I just thought that was so funny that she developed that little thing. But the final memory that I’m going to try to share with you is that, um–I did the ride with Roxy, the bareback bridleless ride in 2006. And, after that ride, you know, it was–like I did–she was pretty much after that ride, she was pretty much retired. But then in 2008 is when I had the chance to take her on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And so I had been doing some stuff with her. But, you know, she just wasn’t doing–wasn’t competing anymore. And I took her to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And then it was like, OK, now she definitely needs to be retired. And so–so in 2010, when the World Equestrian Games was coming to the Kentucky Horse Park, they asked whether or not we would be part of the ceremonies. And it was so interesting because it was like, OK, this is definitely a really big deal. So we’re going to bring Roxy out of retirement and take her to the World Equestrian Games and ride her in the ceremony. And that was such an interesting experience for so many reasons. First of all, pulling the horse out of retirement, going down, doing a bareback and bridleless ride to live music in front of a packed out stand. And the part that you don’t, you can actually see that video online if you search for it. And I’ll try to put a link in the show notes here that can link you to it, but to pull her out, get her ready, so get her physically going mentally back on the same page, more it’s more physical at that point than the mental. The mental will come back fast, but she’s still got to be really fit to do that stuff. And–and getting her down there and it was the–I was riding a reining horse bareback and bridleless in essentially footing that was made to be sticky because the arena that the ceremony was in was for the jumping, and so they don’t want the jumping horses to slip. So I’m down there getting ready to do this massive demonstration and I can’t do my slides because it’s sticky footing that won’t let you slide. And then in the spins, basically Roxy had to relearn how to spin because she couldn’t put a foot down and pivot because it was sticky footing that wouldn’t let the foot slip. So it was fascinating to have to make all these changes really quickly to be able to do this and, you know, go in and all of that stuff. But the reason I’m kind of breezing past some of that detail is because the moment that is stuck in my mind with her was that we were going to ride up to this arena to do this performance at night, and so it was pitch black and I was riding her up from the stabling area. And for whatever reason, the path that I chose was not well lit. So we’re riding essentially by moonlight and by, you know, the far off distant lights that are scattered around the Kentucky horse park. And so it was not a well lit path, but it was so cool because I knew, and we were riding along beside these horses that are there, that are retired there for being so famous, for being champions in the things that they did, for being these race horses that have earned, you know, millions of dollars on the racetrack. And we were riding up by, and it–and I talked to my horses and–and I just remember riding in the dark and it was just such a peaceful night. And over the hill was all this like, all this, you know, big event in this chaos. But, but on my side of the hill, it was just so quiet and in the dark and riding. And I just remember saying to Roxy, someday you’re going to retire here, someday you’re going to be in the Hall of Champions and you’re going to retire here. And I think I might have mentioned it before, we don’t always get to choose how these stories go. What would you get to choose is whether or not we participate in the first place.

Stacy Westfall: [01:09:21] So,there you have it. Episode 1 was a leap of faith. Episode 100 was a stretch of my comfort zone. I just want to thank you for joining me for any of the episodes that you’ve been here for. And I hope you are here with me for 100 more. Thanks for joining me. And I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [01:09:53] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

World Equestrian Games 2010-Kentucky Horse Park: https://youtu.be/MP3ZFZ7ZZrU

7 Comments

  1. Joanne Haughan on October 18, 2020 at 6:48 am

    I needed quite a few tissues to get through this one! Thanks for sharing your experience and perspectives. Always helpful!
    Joanne

  2. Catherine Ehlefeldt on October 17, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    Hi Stacy,

    I am a mature rider, have loved, cared for and ridden my own horses for many years. I am now 60 years old, still have my 26 year old Standardbred gelding, who I have owned since a 9 year old.
    I’ve done several years of trail riding on my horse, in all sorts of terrain, with several different riders.
    I have a wonderful bond with him, built on trust, respect and confidence in his ability, but, over the years, I have lost the confidence and enthusiasm to take him out on a trail ride, especially alone. It’s not that I feel that he may spook or take off on me, but fear and anxiety overcome me, to the point where I’m not even confident to take him out the front gate. My fear is of the unknown, out on the trail, on my own, that some obstacle may present itself to him and my anxiety and fear will take over and I won’t be able to calm myself enough and remain calm to allay his fears.
    Another thing is, I don’t have anyone else to ride with, so I just ride square circles around my small property, which is really boring and mind numbing for both of us.
    I live in a really quiet, country town, with plenty of safe bush trails, quiet, country roads with wide grass verges, and I so want to enjoy trail riding on him again, but, I can’t see that happening again and he’s getting older and so am I.
    Also, I have not got over my fear of cantering on him (or loping, as you call it!) So, I just walk and trot on him. I feel really sorry for him, as he loved being out on a ride with other horses, and even horses that he had’nt had any contact with or been ridden with, he was always on his best behaviour and I enjoyed trail riding on him so much.
    Your advice on this, would be so appreciated, I don’t want to give up on something that I have enjoyed so much with my horse. Also, he is on his own now, having lost my dear old mare several years ago, (his paddock mate for many years). I would get another horse for company for him, or agist another horse here, but, the small property I live on now in north east Qld, Australia, is very pasture poor, my horse needs to be fed several times a day and would not support another horse, without a much bigger $ outlay for stock feed.

  3. Gretchen Ruffin on October 16, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing.
    I’ll never know as many horses as you have, but it only takes getting to know one to see that they’re all magical.
    I love hearing about your thoughts and attitude when you’re with them.
    I talk to my horse too. Alot.
    Looking forward to another hundred!

  4. Dawn Dennison on October 14, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    Stacy, this was so beautiful and so heartfelt. The stories of your horses were told with such genuine love, admiration, honesty and affection. I only cried about 10 times. Thank you for all you do for horses and people, and now, for this lovely, authentic insight into who you are.

  5. Carol J Domansky on October 14, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    Stacy, this episode had me crying and cheering you (and your horses on). Thank you so much for sharing your very personal stories, and give your momma a big hug from me – she truly raised a remarkable, intuitive, compassionate person.

  6. Sandra Potter on October 14, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Hi Stacy
    I’ve never suffered from anxiety and depression until several months ago when I lost my dog Beta of 18 years and my beautiful mare Electra of 22 years the same week. I raised them both since they were one years old. I can certainly relate when you speak about Roxy as I cried with you thinking about Electra. I too worry that their will never be a horse that I have that magical connection with although I love love love my other two horses for so many other reasons and lessons they are teaching me right now. It is just that Electra and I knew each other so well I could just think something or move my body just ever so slightly and she did what I wanted. I listen to your podcasts and it helps me sleep when I have anxiety about going to work. I am a nurse and Covid makes my anxiety and depression worse. Riding and being with Electra used to be my therapy from that. I just wanted to share this with you because you probably don’t even know how many people you are actually helping in other ways besides sharing your horse knowledge. I listen all the time each one multiple times to take my mind off of the pain. I must have listened to the one with Ginny so many times because I can so relate to your “Death of a Dream” story you tell. Thank you so much for all that you do. I’ve also read the poem you shared about God lending his grandest foal many times to help me also. Just thought it was time I shared my appreciation and gratitude to you.

  7. KIMBERLYANN MACKEY on October 14, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Awesome podcast love hearing about all your horse that have moved you along in this crazy horse ride..

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