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  1. #1
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    Default Are "modern horses" hothouse flowers? What to do?

    All of these threads about ulcers, metabolic issues, vague lamenesses, etc. have got me wondering if horses are actually more fragile in this day and age, or does it just seem that way because increased vigilance on our part is uncovering all of these ailments?

    This is a rhetorical question. Were horses getting ulcers 100 years ago and we just weren't recognizing it? Or are modern horses just incapable of coping with the lifestyles they have?

    Another semi-rhetorical question: is horsekeeping now REALLY better than it used to be? Or worse? (My answer is, of course, IT DEPENDS, for the record)

    Most importantly--are we (as an entire horsey "population") really doing anything to combat all of these "new" (or are they??) diseases by making real modifications, or are we simply looking for better remedies and SmartPaks? Is there any thinking among breeders of selecting horses based on their TOUGHNESS and resistance to "modern day" disorders?

    Discuss.
    Click here before you buy.



  2. #2
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    Jun. 14, 2006
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    Default

    We were just talking about this elsewhere as it pertains to colic.

    I think in general, a lot of the the issues we see with horses can be tied back to human interference.

    IR? We're not working them enough and we're feeding too danged much. The breeds with high instance of IR like arabs, morgans, pasos, QH's? They were designed to live on air and get the crap ridden out of them. We do not use horses like we used to.

    Colic? We tinker too damned much with feed.

    Ulcers? Cribbing? Um...turnout! Turnout! Turnout! That and cutting corners on forage and tryin to increase calories with rain while cuttin back forage.

    Generally speaking, the healthiest horses I know are the ones left out, on forage only diets, who get WORKED.

    ETA: my "g" key is stickin. rain=Grain. Sorry.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  3. #3
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    Mar. 9, 2006
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    Default My hot house flower

    Well, when I first got my horse he was definitely a "hot house flower". Before I got him, he lived in a stall 24/7 and was a show horse who seems to have not had much exposure outside a ring. As a result when I got him, he had bad balance, mud would horrify him and water...no way. He also had massive turnout issues which made finding a suitable boarding situation hard.

    He came to me with ulcers. He was so sick and weak, I thought I would lose him. Fast forward a few years and a few different management styles, and now he is out 24/7 with access to stall. He goes on trails that are not perfectly groomed and keeps his footing pretty well. He walks in mud (water is still a problem), the flies that just about gave him a heart attack before are much more tolerated. His off and on gimpy-ness is gone. He is 100 times more healthy and sound then when I first got him.

    I still pamper him to a degree, but he is showing me and telling me that he can be a real horse, unlike the hot house flower I saw a few years ago and the more natural I let him live, the more he thrives.



  4. #4
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    Sep. 15, 2005
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    Default

    Oh goodness, I agree with BuddyRoo!

    I think that the more we keep horses on limited turn-out with too much starch, the worse they are... Hence, mine are on 24-7 turn-out and on high forage/low starch diets I won't keep horses where they can't be on tons of turn-out.

    I found a decent trainer I thought of sending Buddy to for the winter but he would have only had a couple hours out a day and I said NO WAY is he going back into a stall! He has become so much more laid back and healthy since I've had him and he's gone to full turn-out after having been a stall-kept showhorse his whole life.



  5. #5
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    Nov. 5, 2007
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BuddyRoo View Post
    Generally speaking, the healthiest horses I know are the ones left out, on forage only diets, who get WORKED.
    Amen to that,

    Matter of fact it's been proven. I know most of those who populate these boards don't want to hear it but barns are for people, not horses. Living in a stall is about the most unhealthy thing you can do.

    Whats more, the ulcers that the OP mentioned are caused by stress. To a social herding type animal to be confined in a box stall is every bit as psychologically damaging as a human in solitary confinement. Think about it.
    George



  6. #6
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    Default

    No doubt stress plays a HUGE role in all of the above. But how about the horses that DO get 24/7 turnout, a thoughtful diet, etc? Are they healthier or not healthier than horses kept in similar circumstances 20, 30, 100 years ago?

    When horses worked for a living they stood in stalls a LOT. This was mitigated partly by the fact that they got their "exercise" out working. But they still stood around a lot.

    Don't know where I'm going with this, just musing, I guess...maybe drawing parallels to human lifestyles where we want "instant fixes" for things instead of changing our lifestyles.

    I also wonder about the genetic influence. Would YOU breed a hard keeper who was prone to ulcers and needed special "maintenance"?
    Click here before you buy.



  7. #7
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    Dec. 4, 2007
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    Default

    This is a very interesting thread. I will throw in my .02

    I don't think that we are doing them any favors by overdoing thier care. I have seen horses that are on 4 or 6 hours of turnout a day, heavy grain diets, limited "horse" time, and they are miserable. The worst part is, if you left them out longer or gave them a buddy they wouldn't know what to do with it.

    Horses need to be horses, they need to be allowed friends, playtime, they need to be mentally stimulated and worked. They were meant to forage! However proper diet is very important as well, good health does start in the gut (I believe), a good suppliment can make the world of difference.With the lack of nutrients in the soil it can't hurt to have a little extra. My coach used to tell me that if it takes a recipee and more than 5 minutes to make your horses breakfast then you are missing the mark!

    I might breed a hard keeper, it would depend on the situation. But it would certainly be to something that was much easier to keep.
    Riding the winds of change

    Heeling NRG Aussies
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  8. #8
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    Mar. 10, 2003
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JHUshoer20 View Post
    Amen to that,

    Matter of fact it's been proven. I know most of those who populate these boards don't want to hear it but barns are for people, not horses. Living in a stall is about the most unhealthy thing you can do.

    Whats more, the ulcers that the OP mentioned are caused by stress. To a social herding type animal to be confined in a box stall is every bit as psychologically damaging as a human in solitary confinement. Think about it.
    George
    ABSOLUTELY! And psychological damage causes STRESS ... stress causes all SORTS of reactions in a body. All the way down to the hooves. When I teach about the "Lifestyle of the Natural Horse" as the FIRST module in my natural hoofcare course we go over and compare the "natural" (feral/natural as 'designed') with those who are kept domestically. From body positioning (stalled horses mostly head up creating stress response in body) to lack of movement to feed & nutrition to general husbandry. Stall kept horses have stresses on their minds and bodies that are not conducive to Equine "well-being". Imagine locking up a 6 year old hyperactive boy in a 4X4' room, no windows, no social interaction except 1 hour and day and fed nothing but sugar and carbs 2 meals a day? Pretty scary thought, eh?
    --Gwen <><
    "Treat others as you want to be treated and be the change you want to see in the world."
    http://www.thepenzancehorse.com



  9. #9
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    Mar. 21, 2000
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    Default

    My husband asks me the same question every time we have some health related problem with my OTTB. "How did horses survive in the wild?".

    While I agree that living "like a horse" with turnout and forage etc is probably best for the horses I also feel that some of the breeds that bear the most evidence of man's hand (such as the modern American TB bred for speed at the expense of other considerations such as conformation, mental stability etc - and I don't imply that all are bred thusly but many are bred purely for a brief racing career and then they are expendable) are genetically not suitable for the "hardy outdoor" life. Modern TBs tend not to grow much coat even in the winter, many modern TBs have exceptionally thin or shelly hooves and often need extra farrier care. Some modern TBs tend to be very highly strung even when away from the track and as many TB owners know - alot of TBs have a tendency toward "paddock accidents" due to high speed hijinks.

    While my TB does seem to enjoy more turnout and the companionship of other horses (which he did not get while at the track or in a show barn), he also enjoys his warm blankets on chilly nights and the comfort of his stall and fan on hot Texas summer days. We can barely keep weight on him with 3 meals a day of feed and free choice hay so I'm sure that just forage would probably not work well for him either.

    On the other hand, my WB would probably do very well in 24/7 turnout and forage.



  10. #10
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    Aug. 30, 2007
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    Default

    In fact, I was just discussing this with my (non horsey) hubby.

    I have had horses for 25years now. I have had Andalusians, Arabs, TWH, TBs, and assorted ponies along with a Quarter/Arab cross and a grade Paint..

    I have had to put an older mare (27) down due to founder. She actually foundered twice, once at 10 years, and once at 24 years. I put one old (35) gelding down because of hock issues. I lost one Andalusian stallion to sepsis following surgery for a distended cecum. And put the older Quararab down due to a cancerous growth which could no longer be controlled. Other than that I have had maybe three colics which resolved at the barn, not requiring surgical intervention, one horse had to be nerved because of undiagnosed limb lameness, and after his complete recovery, was sold. Last year I had a horse with an elevated temperature and lethargy. Tested really high liver enzymes. Put on two weeks of four different drugs, turned the corner immediately and recovered without remark. Non-diagnosed. Follow-up bloodwork turned out normal.

    I read about the issues today, such as ulcers, IR, Cushings, et al., and have to wonder why I do not seem to have any of these issues with any of my horses. When the ponies become a little rotund, I put them on a diet. I feed consistently and make sure that the feed and grain is of good quality and quantity. I adhere to a strict schedule with my horses, and do not experiment. (I think I have changes feed companies only four times in all these years.) They are stalled at night and as much turnout per day as they can get.

    My horses are not in heavy training, but seem to enjoy their light training schedules and lots of turnout. None of my horses have vices. I have no stall-walkers, cribbers, weavers, wind-suckers, etc. They are happy and alert and willing to do as they are asked when they are asked. My pony rides and drives, my Andalusian is a dressage mount, the paint is a trail horse, the old OTTB is retired.

    I sometimes think that when a problem presents itself, we just want to do anything to "fix" it quickly. We add this supplement or that supplement or try this or that feed, switch hays, grain/no grain and don't think of the long term consequences of doing so. Are we causing our own problems?

    I remember when horse keeping was a common sense thing. I hope that no one comes into my barn to inform my horses that they are not normal because they do not have any of these problems. My vet comes twice a year. My farrier comes every five weeks. Of course I can appreciate the advances in veterinary medicine. It is absolutely wonderful that there are so many tools available for diagnosing and treatment of our horses today. I wonder about some of the lengths that we go through, though, grazing muzzles no grain and only soaked hays to remove all sugars. . . as an example, what does that do to the quality of the horses life?



  11. #11
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    Dec. 4, 2007
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    Default

    "While I agree that living "like a horse" with turnout and forage etc is probably best for the horses I also feel that some of the breeds that bear the most evidence of man's hand (such as the modern American TB bred for speed at the expense of other considerations such as conformation, mental stability etc - and I don't imply that all are bred thusly but many are bred purely for a brief racing career and then they are expendable) are genetically not suitable for the "hardy outdoor" life. Modern TBs tend not to grow much coat even in the winter, many modern TBs have exceptionally thin or shelly hooves and often need extra farrier care."



    Its true that with the horses that are the products of all this breeding that there is no way they would thrive with foraging, 24/7 turnout, and all the other "natural" things. They need the blanketting, extra feed, and all that stuff if we want them to stay healthy.
    Riding the winds of change

    Heeling NRG Aussies
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  12. #12
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    Nov. 5, 2007
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhyadawn View Post
    "While I agree that living "like a horse" with turnout and forage etc is probably best for the horses I also feel that some of the breeds that bear the most evidence of man's hand (such as the modern American TB bred for speed at the expense of other considerations such as conformation, mental stability etc - and I don't imply that all are bred thusly but many are bred purely for a brief racing career and then they are expendable) are genetically not suitable for the "hardy outdoor" life. Modern TBs tend not to grow much coat even in the winter, many modern TBs have exceptionally thin or shelly hooves and often need extra farrier care."



    Its true that with the horses that are the products of all this breeding that there is no way they would thrive with foraging, 24/7 turnout, and all the other "natural" things. They need the blanketting, extra feed, and all that stuff if we want them to stay healthy.
    I've not seen many horses suffer from cold. Usually is quite the contrary. Most tend to enjoy winter and playing in the crisp air. I have however seen plenty of them suffer from heat. They don't do well in heat at all. Nonetheless show people keep them blanketed at 80+ degrees don't they?

    The soundness issues experienced by racehorses can be cured with turnout. This is why they usually run much better after coming back from a trip home to the farm.

    For much more on that subject I highly recommend "The Backyard Racehorse" by Janet DelCastillo. Is a great book that anyone interested in horsecare should read.

    Additionally, although racehorses have the reputation, I think I see much more unsoundness and health issues in show horses. Is no coincidence that they live most like hothouse plants
    George



  13. #13
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    Sep. 16, 2005
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    Default

    I don't buy that modern TBs have bad feet or don't grow a good coat. Some grow a different coat - it is not necesarily less warm. My TB and the one we half lease are the only two horses in the boarding that have not had blankets yet - we are in Maryland. I just don't think it has been cold enough to blanket yet - unless they are clipped. They are stalled at night and they certainly don't get cold in the barn. They don't have the long shaggy coat thay my Tennessee Walker got, but they have the layers that you often see on a TB - and the layers work well if they are left alone. I also think that with proper management, there is no such thing as bad TB feet. With regard to ulcers, the top experts will tell you that there are two ways to treat - Gastrogard or several months of 24/7 turnout on grass/hay with no work. If you want to keep them work and treat ulcers, you have to use medicine. Ulcers are a management problem.



  14. #14
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    Dec. 2, 2004
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    Ohio
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    Default

    I think the obvious answer to the question is "It depends", "yes and no" and "can't answer that without defining the benchmark". Seriously.

    Having brought horses out of their natural environments for our use and pleasure, everything changes. Here's a picture of as close to a real natural horse as we're likely to see:

    http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/sgs/equid/pics/PM_PH.jpg

    Sound, healthy, hearty and basically useless for human purposes beyond a food source (NOT!). I wonder how long those horses would last if they were required to live the high-stress life of today's high-performance competitors.

    I think most of us here understand what constitutes a healthy lifestyle for our horses and do our best to provide that. I am in the unfortunate situation of needing to keep my mare in a stall. She's been stalled since she was 10. Is that the best thing for her? No. Am I guilty of abusing her? Well, she's 25 now, sound, healthy, bright-eyed and energetic. And there's a 35 year old Appaloosa down the street that's still working, sound, healthy, bright-eyed and energetic. He's been stalled his whole life.

    I think much of the present concern with ulcers, metabolic issues, vague lamenesses, etc. are a direct result of greater knowledge regarding the care and complications of horse ownership coupled with a larger population of horses owned by people who are interested as much in the welfare of the horse as in the animal's intended use.

    As we increase the numbers of new owners entering the horse world, we proportionately decrease the percentage of wise, knowledgeable owners/trainers/caretakers. Is the problem that serious breeders and owners aren't breeding for sound healthy horses or are demographics skewing the picture?

    I guess my bottom line on this is that trying to compare totally natural to 1800's to today to US to Europe to Africa is difficult to impossible. There are too many variables. Can I have a simpler question?
    <><




  15. #15
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    Aug. 28, 2007
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    Default

    I am amazed at all the posts I see of how many horses are getting ulcers and colicking.....
    I only have one gelding right now but at one time I had 3 horses a OTTB mare, a QH and my AWB who I have now. All 3 horses had all day turnout and my QH was the only one stalled at night as he came from a lesson barn and was happier being in at night.
    My mare had 2 or 3 extremely mild bouts of colic (nothing that needed a vet call) due to her just being a nervous nellie.
    Other than her colicking (which was actually when I had to board her when I first got her) my horses never had the vet out unless it was for shots/teeth once a year. My mare lived to be 32- which is amazing for an OTTB and she was never lame or showed any signs of arthritis either
    I am a firm believer in as much turnout as possible (ideally 24/7 w/access to shelter) and as much good quality hay and plenty of exercise and your horse will be in good shape!



  16. #16
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    Sep. 11, 2007
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    Default

    I agree 100% with the general opinion above that the extreme "pampering" we put our horses through is not necessarily good, and that letting horses just be horses is usually the best method to a happy healthy horse.

    BUT, how many of you think this thinking applies to high level show horses? Can we make this theory work for a horse in full time training with goals of showing at the higher levels of the sport? I am debating this as I am thinking of how exactly to raise my coming 3 yo who hopefully will turn out to be my show horse. Does anyone have examples of top Grand Prix horses in 24/7 turnout, with no boots or blankets or feed supplements or special shooes? Most will answer - well these horses cost a lot of money, need to be "protected", need to be in the best shape possible, etc... Is there a middle point somewhere, a balance between being a horse but preventing bad situations? opinions anyone



  17. #17
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    Jan. 24, 2004
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    Default

    I see merit in many of the viewpoints expressed on this thread.

    1. Yes, I think we "catch" subtle lamenesses and gut aches better than previous generations of horse owners - partly because many of us are so internet-educated we look symptoms up when we don't understand a horse who's NQR. We now have, more than ever, the tools to treat them and the income or insurance to make it possible. Enough of these horses would have died young in a previous generation - just like people, now they are living long enough to get more sick, more often.

    2. I think also with emphasis on competition and high-priced horses comes (what are to me) questionable horse management practices. I was looking at a nice private dressage barn (I'm a realtor and was asked to prepare a marketing proposal for them) - there was little turnout. Nice lawns, orchard, etc. but very little fenced pasture with a 10 stall barn. When I asked about it, the owner was horrified - "these are NICE horses - expensive horses - WHY would we put them outside to get hurt in the pasture?" And that's why so many show hunters need, uh "prep" before a kid or an amateur can get on them.

    3. There are, of course, owners who over-do it. I know someone who cuts up their horse's carrots so he doesn't run the risk of choking (no history of choke in horse or owner's previous horses). A different blanket every temperature shift of 10 degrees or more. Okay, if it makes them happy, it probably won't hurt the horse. As long as they get full turnout and a forage-based diet...



  18. #18
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    Jul. 19, 2003
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    Default

    I'm going to go a bit the other way.

    When horses truly worked for their livings, they spent a good deal of time locked up in stalls, with very, very little turn out, if any. They were fed high grain diets with little grazing and often worked into the ground...literally. They were beasts of burden and treated as such ("Black Beauty" WAS based in reality). Barns and stables are not a new concept, and keeping horses stabled (often in standing stalls) was standard practice, and has been for thousands of years.

    On top of that, veterinary medicine, just as human medicine, has come a long, long, long way (even in the past 10, 15, 20 years). We know more now and understand more now. We have new ways of treating problems and know how to prevent them, too, and we're finding out that a lot of behavior issues can stem from a deeper medical or soundness issue. We are learning about better ways to feed our horses, and are understanding that horses need to be horses to be happy, healthy partners. Sure, some horses may still spend the majority of their time in a stall, but we at least now have ways to try and keep them healthy and happy...might not be "perfect" but it is better.



  19. #19
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    Default

    I agree with others that living in a stall is just not healthy for any horse. Period. I've always just had an open shed, and I've never had a colic in 21 years of horse keeping, except for a recent rescue when I wormed it for the first time in years.

    Along the genetic components dealing with IR: As an aging baby boomer, I am done with challenging, hot, tall horses and purposely went to pony crosses. I now value a handy, sensible short horse and would much rather deal with stubborn or a bit of temper than a hot, spooky horse who leaps about unexpectedly. I am also feeling more comfortable being closer to the ground. I've broken more than my share of bones. I'm the only person I ride with that can get back on after opening a gate.
    I think many others are in the same place. We have bad backs, so we are buying gaited horses. They have a higher incidence of IR. Icelandics, Norwegian Fjiords, Connemarras, all pony crosses, Iberian horses, mustangs, TWH, Morgans are all genetically predisposed to IR. I think they are more appealing to people like me.
    I think you can feed a TB like a cow and get away with it. But not any of the breeds I mentioned.
    If anyone has a short, slightly lazy, sensible, skinny TB that can eat grass 24/7 and NEEDS some sweet feed to stay in condition; THAT's the horse I'm looking for now. Got plenty grass going to waste.
    Think about the origins of the TB. England, stables built by weathly aristocrates, grooms, rugs, grain, perennial ryegrass, selected for fast metabolism that could produce short bursts of speed. Now.... think about what a feral Connemara dealt with. No brainer.
    Katy



  20. #20
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    Default

    Yes, I too think a lot of it has to do with human interferance. As well as the fact that horses don't work as hard as they used to. Think back to the "ye olden days" people did not strictly own horses for pleasure- if they did they were extremely wealthy- and the rest of the horses worked. And I'll argue the fact that founder and colic didn't happen- it surely did- they just had no idea what to do with it and they probably were shot when they foundered.
    Now almost anyone can afford a cheap horse (or at least think they can, unfortunately), and they have no clue how to treat them.
    Also, I think "show horses" have gotten to be a HUGE industry, more than it ever was, and horses are under a lot of high stress as they are shipped back and forth across the country- that probably did not happen as much many years ago.
    And, a decrease in land available to horse owners means that many are in boarding situations with limited turnout. Hay is also more expensive than it used to be- and most people don't exactly find it in their backyard.
    Most people also sstill have the old idea that horses need GRAIN without understanding why.



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