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  1. #1
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    Default Advise for reaching 2nd Level

    Hello All.

    Im going to do my best to keep this short and to the point. I have a Hanovarian mare(half TB) who I have been riding towards 1st level for too long. I practice with her at least 2 to 3 times a week and about 5 times a week in the Summer. In some areas she is doing 8 point marks while in others she is faultering.

    It's been a real struggle to get a collected canter out of her.
    During my lessons I have noticed other riders with much less experience then me on horses that seem to take to their collected canters like it's nothing. My horse is very strong and I have to really work to keep her balanced and to get her to use the appropriate muscles.

    On one level I know that this horse is really teaching me to ride and to apply my mind and body. I started her myself. She's 13 now ,still improving but its slow going and very frustrating at times.

    I mentioned to my instructor, that aren't there certain horses that are easier to train and ride, that take to collection easier? Quite frankly I think Im a very good rider and have become this way from the challenges of this horse. I believe that if I was put on an upper level horse, I would do very well and actually be surprised. Ive ridden all my life. Well, when I asked that question the answer I got was no, with the impression that I am at my level with my mare because of me not my horse. because there are certain things I just cant figure out, because Im dumb, because I cant seem to ever get it right.

    I understand the saying that it's all ways the rider and not the horse, but how can this all ways be, lets be real, If you put an Olympic rider on my horse, it doesn't matter how much time is spent on her, she would not make it as an Olympic horse by the virtue of her breeding and make up. Ive even read articles on this very subject on how all horses are different and some of them can only advance to a certain levels.
    I feel that I am intentionally being brainwashed to feel that its all me and not the horse, hence being denied the truth of what my true abilities as a rider really is. My instincts are telling me that Im riding in circles and not allowed the pride and self esteem to move up in the ranks and be where I rightfully belong. Im ready to break the glass.
    SkyDancer5000 --3rd Level



  2. #2
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    Does your instructor ever tell you specifically what you need to improve on as a rider to get better work out of your mare? I would question any instructor who was critical of my riding, without being able to tell me where I needed to improve. Even if their answer was, "Everything and everywhere".
    Sheilah


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  3. #3
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    Perhaps your instructor could get on the mare and show that there is the collected canter in there, and be better able to instruct you how to get it from her? Or try another instructor/clinician?

    I am also inclined to think it's a rider issue, rather than assuming the horse just can't or is just that much more difficult. Putting an Olympian on your horse might not make your horse be an Olympic mount, but I bet they'd still be able to bring out the best in your horse.

    I am a crappy rider, with awful posture. And I KNOW this. So I take instruction and apply it. I think the humility and acceptance of my (lack of) abilities and knowledge maybe make me more receptive to instruction. Obviously I can't speak to your abilities or coach or riding style, etc, but just a thought.


    7 members found this post helpful.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Molly Micvee View Post
    Hello All.

    Im going to do my best to keep this short and to the point. I have a Hanovarian mare(half TB) who I have been riding towards 1st level for too long. I practice with her at least 2 to 3 times a week and about 5 times a week in the Summer. In some areas she is doing 8 point marks while in others she is faultering.

    It's been a real struggle to get a collected canter out of her.
    During my lessons I have noticed other riders with much less experience then me on horses that seem to take to their collected canters like it's nothing. My horse is very strong and I have to really work to keep her balanced and to get her to use the appropriate muscles.

    On one level I know that this horse is really teaching me to ride and to apply my mind and body. I started her myself. She's 13 now ,still improving but its slow going and very frustrating at times.

    I mentioned to my instructor, that aren't there certain horses that are easier to train and ride, that take to collection easier? Quite frankly I think Im a very good rider and have become this way from the challenges of this horse. I believe that if I was put on an upper level horse, I would do very well and actually be surprised. Ive ridden all my life. Well, when I asked that question the answer I got was no, with the impression that I am at my level with my mare because of me not my horse. because there are certain things I just cant figure out, because Im dumb, because I cant seem to ever get it right.

    I understand the saying that it's all ways the rider and not the horse, but how can this all ways be, lets be real, If you put an Olympic rider on my horse, it doesn't matter how much time is spent on her, she would not make it as an Olympic horse by the virtue of her breeding and make up. Ive even read articles on this very subject on how all horses are different and some of them can only advance to a certain levels.
    I feel that I am intentionally being brainwashed to feel that its all me and not the horse, hence being denied the truth of what my true abilities as a rider really is. My instincts are telling me that Im riding in circles and not allowed the pride and self esteem to move up in the ranks and be where I rightfully belong. Im ready to break the glass.
    Where you "rightfully belong"? Attitude check in aisle 3!

    Quote Originally Posted by normandy_shores View Post
    Perhaps your instructor could get on the mare and show that there is the collected canter in there, and be better able to instruct you how to get it from her? Or try another instructor/clinician?

    I am also inclined to think it's a rider issue, rather than assuming the horse just can't or is just that much more difficult. Putting an Olympian on your horse might not make your horse be an Olympic mount, but I bet they'd still be able to bring out the best in your horse.

    I am a crappy rider, with awful posture. And I KNOW this. So I take instruction and apply it. I think the humility and acceptance of my (lack of) abilities and knowledge maybe make me more receptive to instruction. Obviously I can't speak to your abilities or coach or riding style, etc, but just a thought.
    I'm with normandy here. I also know I stink, and have tons to learn - so I absorb and improve constantly. I'm still nowhere near the rider I want to be, but at least I can take pride in having improved some! OP, what do you know you want to improve in your riding? How's your seat? How well can you influence your horse's hind legs at whim with your seat, ask for more impulsion or bounce off your seat, etc?

    I know a mare with a severe physical disability who is schooling half steps and starting tempi changes. With the right rider, 2nd level would be pretty darned easy for most horses.

    Now, that might take a professional, and could be part of your problem. But it sounds like you believe you are better than other people, including the trainer trying to tell you how to improve, and I'm sorry - but no. There is a lot to learn for every single person on this board, and you haven't told us enough about your riding to know what you do and don't know, but I highly suspect even if you're not on the most talented horse ever a huge part of it is your riding just from your attitude.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed


    5 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
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    I'm sorry to hear about your situation. Without you posting a video of your instructor instructing you as you ride, it's hard to tell what's going on. But I have a few things for you to contemplate. I don't think that horses move up necessarily by "the levels". There are horses who can naturally passage and piaffe before they can produce a quality collected canter. I think the trick is to use your horse's strengths to strengthen the weaknesses. You say that your horse earns 8s on things - on what? It's also important to keep in mind that the test movements are exercises to strengthen the horse - they are means to an end, not the end itself. Counter canter and walk-canter transition done correctly will certainly improve the collected canter - it's why it's in the second level tests. Try to keep an eye on the future - don't stress about the collected canter, stress about keeping a balanced counter canter and quality walk canter walk transitions. The collected canter will come if this work is correctly done. In other words, focus on the forest, not the trees. I also agree that it is invaluable to have outside points of view. Can you ride in a clinic with a quality clinician? Can you have a clinician or a good dressage rider ride and evaluate your horse? *Don't* tell them the whole story...just listen to what they have to say after riding. Lastly, your instructor might be right...or totally wrong. There are plenty of instructors out there who hang out a shingle but really don't know what they're talking about. Can she get on your horse and show you what she's talking about? Can she get a collected canter out of the horse or work towards it in a lesson? If not, I'd be a little suspect. I think it's very worth it to pay the money to find someone who knows what they're talking about and can independently evaluate you and your horse if you question your instructor this much. But you have to be really open to their critique. Good luck!
    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation



  6. #6
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    There is no "rightfully belong." There is only what you are able to tactfully elicit from your horse.

    After 20 years focusing mainly on the hunters, though I did have a dressage working student positions, and though I was riding at a semi-professional level riding between twenty and seventy sale horses a year depending on which trainer I was with, there was no "rightfully belong" for me. I had three horsesand I took a lesson a week on each. I rode each of them a minimum of four times a week, not one horse 2 to 3 times a week.

    And you know what? It was still hard. I could do versions of SI, HI and HP on everything, and they obviously all had lead changes, but getting the true quality and balance is hard work and the basics need attending to every ride. I did 20m circles for eons, I did shallow loop serpentines, etc etc. It came with time and work.

    The horse that I started as a 3.5 year old is now turning 8 in May and playing with tempis and pirouettes. He will do both of our first rated dressage show in June this year in a bid for our bronze, because finally the quality is ready. Could have got the 60 earlier but he is capable of pushing 70 so we waited until I was too.

    Am still finding new gears, new levels of quality.

    There is no "rightfully belong".

    Get out there 5-6 times a week, try to ride multiple horses if possible, take lessons like clockwork every week. Take your stirrups off the saddle and put them away. Sit on a 20m circle until you can do trot/walk transitions with seat not hand. Same with canter/walk (still stirrupless). If your trainer is not CURRENTLY working on taking the ride out of your hands and putting it on your seat and back instead, get a new trainer. You should be hearing about "double-handed" release and "less hand, use seat instead" from the get go. Even first level can be ridden off the seat. It you are unable to canter 20m circles with no stirrups your seat is not good enough to do it, though. So learn that.

    It's work. However, that is the recipe.

    By the way, I also teach. Through the years I have had students who think they are very good riders on "challenging" horses, and also students who call me in desperation because their horse runs away with them and they are terrified. The first group wants to see results, the second group is perfectly happy to sit on a 20m circle doing walk trot transitions for eons because they are too terrified to do anything else. It is great for me because I can build their ride slowly and teach little lessons on how to ride with feel and pay attention to detail, without being told I don't "appreciate their skill as a rider" which I caught you saying in your post because haha, you're not the first person I've heard it from and you won't be the last either. Other people refuse to take dressage lessons period because "they know how to school their horse" and they "don't want to sit on a 20m circle." I bet they think they could ride smebody else's trained horse and surprise everyone (if someone with a trainer horse would just let them get on). Blah blah blah, let me count the ways. You are not rare. We hear this from training/first level riders aplenty.

    In my experience, the people who never improve are the ones who never take lessons, or who take them once in a blue moon. I have shared countless arenas with horses who go THE SAME week after week under a rider who never lessons. Lessons in has a DIRECT correlation with results out. Lack of lessons has a similar direct correlation with lack of results. People who practice wrong for years don't magically start to practice right one day.

    The people who are too terrified of a legitimately difficult horse (ie, running off, disastrous prior training, etc etc) to do much at first are the ones who in the long run improve the fastest. They don't want to "rightfully belong" anywhere, they just want to be able to ride with control and without terror. Staying on is priority number one. They have to learn to ride like trainers to fix their own horse. They have to dwell on the basics because they are too scared to skip them. They have to learn feel to trot successfully. They take a lesson every week or more often because they are too scared to do much of anything on their own. When they can trot a 20m circle they burst into tears they are so happy. The little bitty tiny steps they take, on their $500 off-breed with serious training holes, with incremental improvement week after week after week, ends up buildng a very good rider, who rides like a thinking trainer with feel, who understands where it all came from and how it all hangs together, because when it comes to their horse's Rome, they are the ones who had to rustle up their cajones and their determination and build it brick by brick.

    The people who won't sit on a 20m circle in a lesson week after week and work on transitions from the seat and on improving their seat are the ones who get stuck at First. Why? Because for Second you have to build collection. How do you improve collection? By riding on a 20m circle endlessly and working on doing transitions from seat. If the rider is too good for that, oh well.
    Last edited by meupatdoes; Apr. 22, 2013 at 07:58 AM.


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  7. #7
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    Posted by Meup: ". Sit on a 20m circle until you can do trot/walk transitions with seat not hand. Same with canter/walk (still stirrupless). If your trainer is not CURRENTLY working on taking the ride out of your hands and putting it on your seat and back instead, get a new trainer. "


    THIS!!

    My trainer took away my stirrups earlier this year AND put me on the longe. On a made horse. When I got back on my youngster, the transitions improved dramatically and my horse was easier to collect too.

    This past weekend we were getting 7.0 for bend and balance in our turns, 8.0 for our halts and 7.0 on the rider scores, up at least a whole point from the same judge who normally scored us 6.0 to 6.5 on those things. She too remembered us and noted the improvement.


    It is a lot of work and it feels like you are taking a step back, but it is totally worth it.


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  8. #8
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    I always like "Meup's" posts!!

    I woud like to add that not all trainers are so good. While the OP mentions "its always the rider"....I was thinking "its NOT the horse" (especially when talking about 1st and 2nd level work). So if you think you are a competent rider, than perhaps your trainer is not right for you. But you do need to put in the time as Meup's points out.



  9. #9
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    It can only help this situation if you ride a solid 2nd level horse for some of your lessons, and your trainer works with your horse. I strongly suggest you speak with your trainer about it.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  10. #10
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    Since I don't have a horse of my own I have ridden a lot of different horses in my quest to learn to ride. I wouldn't classify myself as an excellent rider by any means - I am meup's student who wanted to cry tears of joy when I cantered a 20m circle and stayed on the first time. That being said, there are only two horses that I couldn't learn to collect: one horse was suspected of hurting his back as a baby and would buck you off if you asked him to collect, and the other was a strong TB I just didn't have the skills for and is still a work in progress for me as a rider. If I was you and not get results I would consider if she has a physical issue and if not, I'd consider professional training for her to help get her where you think she should be. Don't think of this as a failure to ride, think of it as a learning opportunity for you and your horse. Sometimes we just get stuck in a pattern and need someone to pull us out of it.


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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
    It can only help this situation if you ride a solid 2nd level horse for some of your lessons, and your trainer works with your horse. I strongly suggest you speak with your trainer about it.
    If there is no access to a second level horse, it can also be helpful to have the trainer prepare the current horse for the first twenty minutes of the lesson, and then teach the student how to get that little increment on their own.

    Often the gap between "Well, the third level horse does canter departs like THIS, but my green broke horse does them like so..." is too big of a gap for a rider to bridge from one horse to another.

    "Here is how my current horse goes just a little bit better and how I can recreate most of it," however, is accessible. Repeat that for 52 lessons over the course of a year and suddenly horse and rider are up a level.


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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Molly Micvee View Post
    My instincts are telling me that Im riding in circles and not allowed the pride and self esteem to move up in the ranks and be where I rightfully belong. Im ready to break the glass.
    Also from my experience as an instructor, the NUMBER ONE indicator of success in a lesson student (after, "consistently shows up every week") is what I refer to as "frustration tolerance." How many times can a rider attempt and not-quite-get a challenging (for them) and probably boring (for them) exercise before they commence pout and tell the trainer why it's impossible and why they would prefer to do things they way they have been which obviously works better? Some people it is like, three times.

    Other people it is like, three months. They do it again and again and the very incremental improvement is enough satisfaction for them. The let the trainer train them, go on faith awhile, and let the results come in time. These guys learn the new skill eventually. And then they have to relearn how to do it the next level up.


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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by meupatdoes View Post
    Also from my experience as an instructor, the NUMBER ONE indicator of success in a lesson student (after, "consistently shows up every week") is what I refer to as "frustration tolerance." How many times can a rider attempt and not-quite-get a challenging (for them) and probably boring (for them) exercise before they commence pout and tell the trainer why it's impossible and why they would prefer to do things they way they have been which obviously works better? Some people it is like, three times.

    Other people it is like, three months. They do it again and again and the very incremental improvement is enough satisfaction for them. The let the trainer train them, go on faith awhile, and let the results come in time. These guys learn the new skill eventually. And then they have to relearn how to do it the next level up.
    How about those of us who stop and say "Help?" when we're trying to do something and our body simply doesn't respond how we want it to, and we can feel it falling apart?

    (For the record, Saturday we seemed to have the breakthrough on a specific me-problem we've been working on for four months with up to 4 rides with instruction a week... So %#$@ing frustrating, yet worth continuing to work on!)
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed



  14. #14
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    You could start by studying fourth level. It will give you both a window to the future and an understanding of what the second level requirements mean.
    Last edited by not again; Apr. 22, 2013 at 10:30 AM. Reason: spelling
    Anne
    -------
    "Where knowledge ends violence begins." B. Ljundquist



  15. #15
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    Time to get a new trainer, you have lost faith in this one.

    Yes, some horses just don't have it in them, but most could bumble through second level. It's hard to tell what you are saying in your post. Can you DO a second level test, just not well? Or literally you cannot do the canter work, even badly? If you are bound and determined to get there with this horse, then find a new instructor that can also ride your horse and help you get there.



  16. #16
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    How's your seat?

    Here's the thing. Yes, 2nd requires collection, but the level of collection is very small. It's so elementary, in fact, that a lot of horses can sort of fake their way through the tests with energetic, snappy movement and a decent rider. The simple change is usually a problem, but that's about it.

    The real reason that most riders can't put together a decent 2nd level test is that they won't spend the time to develop a quality seat. That requirement rests squarely on you... not your trainer, and not your horse.


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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by netg View Post
    How about those of us who stop and say "Help?" when we're trying to do something and our body simply doesn't respond how we want it to, and we can feel it falling apart?

    (For the record, Saturday we seemed to have the breakthrough on a specific me-problem we've been working on for four months with up to 4 rides with instruction a week... So %#$@ing frustrating, yet worth continuing to work on!)
    There is a big difference between "help" and "I think I know better." If your instructor teaches with feel, they can tell the difference.

    I will lead a scared adult around the ring at a walk, and my cup will runneth over at their try in the face of fear. I will stand there for weeks with riders not ready to move past short stretches of trot. We can tell the difference.

    And btw, I've followed your posts all along and I would gladly teach you in the Arizona desert all week long and twice on Sundays.


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Molly Micvee View Post
    Well, when I asked that question the answer I got was no, with the impression that I am at my level with my mare because of me not my horse. because there are certain things I just cant figure out, because Im dumb, because I cant seem to ever get it right.
    If your instructor is actually saying these things to you, it's time to change instructors. If, however, you are inferring it, ask yourself why.

    I can't speak for everyone, but I know that many, many AAs feel the frustration and distress you are feeling now. Dressage is crazy hard, especially for those of us who aren't super technical in our thinking. Unfortunately for us, it is 99% (or more) the rider, not the horse. But if you work hard, you will have breakthroughs and you will progress.
    Quote Originally Posted by Linny View Post
    Those martingales were so taut, you could play Ode to Joy on them with a comb



  19. #19
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    I would try out a different trainer.

    At the level you are at, you should feel the horse shorten off and on on its own due to your work and half halts. If you truly apply yourself as you say it should just sort of happen and hopefully your instructor will point out those times when the body did shorten a bit and maybe give you pointers on how to ride it better.

    Sitting trot work definately helps in all half halt, SI, HI, work imo which is also needed for this. Are you working on sitting at all>?
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
    http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/



  20. #20
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    Default Check the ego at the barn door!

    first of all, ditto to all the advice from Meup. Not going to repeat but encourage you to read and re-read her posts. And I agree that you have lost confidence in your trainer if you truly believe you are being intentionally brainwashed and put down....time to change regardless of anything else.

    As an aging AA with limited natural talent, I do actually get your frustration but reading your post MHO is you don't know what you don't know yet. Your comment about if you could ride an upper level horse your fabulous skills and abilities could come out. Well, go buy an upper level horse if that is what you believe.....but trust me, no one just sits on an upper level horse, pushes a few buttons and all their fabulous skills just kick in.

    This is a sport where it only gets harder as you move up the levels. The refinement of skills, the truly understanding correct aids and responses, the understanding of throughness and relaxation. It is not at all about the 'tricks'.

    As an aging AA with limited natural talent, I can also tell you that you are not putting your butt in the saddle enough if you want to break through to the mid and upper levels. I have to work darn hard to make progress because it takes me twice as long to get it......my butt is in the saddle 10+ times a week! and I work full time, etc, etc, etc with all the other challenges of being an AA. I count my pennies and I prioritize my time. I ride other horses in order to get the butt time.

    I have been riding since 2000 when I started at the age of 40 and discovered dressage in 2002. My first dressage horse was a breed stock paint that was $1. He had shown to 1st level a couple of times. He took me solidly through 2nd level with many Dover medals and a Reserve Regional Champion. So I understand challenged horses! His career was cut short due to injury but we were schooling 3rd when that happened.

    My next horse is an Arab/Trek cross that is soooo black and white to ride. Not forgiving or easy at all. We were on the Dover National Merit list and I earned my Bronze on him. And again, not big bucks.

    I thought I was ready for that upper level horse and an unexpected bonus at work allowed me to go look for him. My third horse had shown to PSG by a professional. Like you, I thought my vast skills and abilities would allow me to just take off to that elusive FEI. Holy crap....I spent the whole first month just learning to canter a 20 m circle without him doing tempis....he had a blast freaking me out. didn't know what I did to start then nor what I did to stop them. That is the refinement of the aids issue and understanding my body in that refinement. Talk about humbling me to the core.....but we put on our big girl panties and worked our butt off building a partnership AND REFINING MY SKILLS! I had soooo much to learn riding a 'trained' horse. We started showing at 3rd level, then 4th, then PSG and within a year of buying him we were Reserve Regional Champion and I earned my Silver in 5 rides. Let me say again....I worked my butt off getting there.

    I can tell you flat out, you don't know what you think you know otherwise you would not be saying the things you are saying. Check the ego, evaluate your goals, build a plan to get to your goals and go to work. If your horse is struggling with 1st level, she is not ready for 1st level.....go back to the basic and reschool, especially if you are the rider you think you are. Getting to 2nd level is HARD.....if is a critical level demonstrating the horse has proper training (training scale) and is ready for collection. That is why so many people struggle to do 2nd level well....it is there for a reason. So forget about 2nd level and go back to the basics which SET UP second level.
    m


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