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  1. #21
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    I had a chance to look at that picture, atkill, of the horse with the spade bit but no headstall. Looking at it brought up a question - if the horse is to carry the bit in its mouth, doesn't that create a certain amount of tension in the head (jaw/tongue mostly) for the horse to be able to hold such a heavy bit in place?
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  2. #22
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    Is this tradition growing - or shrinking and left to a few masters?
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


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  3. #23
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    In simple terms then, a bridle has seen a cow and a western pleasure horse has not. I don't have a bridle horse then...and I'm okay with that. Western riding in Michigan doesn't have the same roots as it does 'out west'. I ride a show ring style of western. Not many cowboys go to work in sequins and crystals! lol
    Ride like you mean it.



  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    What many don't realize is that today's vaquero tradition is light years ahead of the old one.
    In some ways. The influence of folks like the Dorrance's has brought a consideration of the horse into the picture that wasn't the same before, but today's horses are also much more refined and trainable then the ranch or range horses of a couple hundred years ago. THAT factors in heavily as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    The old tradition had very stiff, many upside down horses, as you can see by the pictures.
    You mean like how 90% of modern horses are just the same?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    I know that years ago there was already controversy between that style and the old, much less technical but more correct way of going of the TX cutters, that would travel to CA and "beat them all", as they told me, to the point that many of the old CA vaquero tradition trainers would come to TX "to learn how they did it", meaning training such light and soft horses.

    Don Dodge is the one that had seen it all, was intimately familiar with many styles of riding and training and had one of the most educated eyes you could find out there in those days.
    He explained all that in a way that made sense.
    Lol, your Texas roots and biases are showing. You're also basing your entire comparison on the show ring when you say "beat them all", where making a horse quickly is encouraged. I don't look to the show ring for the really refined horsemen now, why would it be any different in the past?

    Just as now really soft, balanced horses and true horsemen and women are rare, I've no reason to believe that a hundred or two hundred years ago the same wasn't true. People don't really change.
    Last edited by aktill; May. 24, 2013 at 03:31 PM.


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  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDE Driver View Post
    Has anyone read "Those Were The Vaqueros" by Arnold (Chief) Rojas?

    I rode western as a kid and he was friends with the trainer I rode with. He would come and stay for a couple of months every summer and teach us kids in the old traditions. It was a priceless education.
    That would have been quite an experience! That book was put back into print, and is available at the EH link above. Good one for really getting a glimpse into the history and traditions, though not particularly into the training methods in much depth from what I remember.


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  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pocket Pony View Post
    I had a chance to look at that picture, atkill, of the horse with the spade bit but no headstall. Looking at it brought up a question - if the horse is to carry the bit in its mouth, doesn't that create a certain amount of tension in the head (jaw/tongue mostly) for the horse to be able to hold such a heavy bit in place?
    With no headstall, undoubtedly, but that photo is really just to prove a point. Being able to softly support the bit makes for less tension in my experience though.

    The horse doesn't pick it up all the time, just when they go to work or the rider starts to ask a question. Long trotting or trailing a herd, not so much.


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  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foxtrot's View Post
    Is this tradition growing - or shrinking and left to a few masters?
    Growing, though slowly due to the committment involved. Most people don't really want to take things this seriously lol

    It's much more visible now, and there are TONS more books and videos out there compared to even 5 yrs ago. For a long time the Connell and Rojas books were about all there was out there.


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  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by ezduzit View Post
    In simple terms then, a bridle has seen a cow and a western pleasure horse has not.
    Not really. In simple terms every step of a pleasure horse's training is dictated by (bizarre) fashion, and the arbitrator of success is a judge. To each their own, but the discipline has got more than its fair share of people who are baffled by the whole point of the event nowadays.

    Every step of making a working bridle horse is dictated by making them the most useful ranch horse they can be, and success there is measured by usefulness and longevity.

    One old measure of a bridle horse was if you could ride a whole day on the ranch having tied your bridle reins to the bit with only a tail hair, doing everything from moving out to sorting to cutting to branding, and not break it, THEN you were ready to move from the two-rein into the bridle alone.


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  9. #29
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    Aktill, could you elaborate further on this (preferably with pictures)?
    "The difference between a signal bit and a leverage bit is partially structure, and partially philosophy.

    If the bit functions by engaging the curb strap, it's a leverage bit. Leverage bits won't have spoons and braces, though they may have open ports. You'll learn later that horses can't actually pick up and carry these bits, they just hang off the headstall. A bit that can't be carried isn't a signal bit, so that includes some spoon bits WITHOUT braces, or bits with spoons and braces that are too small.

    If the bit has braces and a spoon, and works more off movement of the mouthpiece, braces (the parts connecting the spoon to the cheeks on spades) or bit cheeks, it's a signal bit. A horse needs to be able to carry these bits, like so:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TZJYUFNg9m...pade%2Bbit.jpg

    Note the lack of headstall. By picking them up, any movement of the rein is meaningful to the horse. As such (and this is something most people don't get), a spade doesn't work by jabbing the horse in the pallet, it works by having a huge spoon area to indicate signals. The spoon lifting off the tongue is a big signal. OTOH, signals from a curb bit are more muddled, since the bit isn't being carried."

    I think a 'spoon' is a spoon-shaped port (in simplest terms)? But what is a brace? 'Open ports'? Not covered, like a Salinas or Mona Lisa is?

    Also, swimming around in my head is the CONCEPT of a horse carrying the bit, but it's too muddy to distinguish in this sentence: "You'll learn later that horses can't actually pick up and carry these bits, they just hang off the headstall."

    Thanks - I LOVE this conversation and your knowledge...Thanks for sharing!
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  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktill View Post
    Growing, though slowly due to the committment involved. Most people don't really want to take things this seriously lol

    It's much more visible now, and there are TONS more books and videos out there compared to even 5 yrs ago. For a long time the Connell and Rojas books were about all there was out there.
    I would love to take a try at following this path and seeing how far my horse can go. Thank you so much to everyone who has participated and provided links. I have a lot of reading and watching to do! I hope that I can make my way to more clinics - I've been looking at a lot of these websites and the clinics look interesting. If only I had more time and money!!!
    My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

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  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktill View Post
    In some ways. The influence of folks like the Dorrance's has brought a consideration of the horse into the picture that wasn't the same before, but today's horses are also much more refined and trainable then the ranch or range horses of a couple hundred years ago. THAT factors in heavily as well.



    You mean like how 90% of modern horses are just the same?



    Lol, your Texas roots and biases are showing. You're also basing your entire comparison on the show ring when you say "beat them all", where making a horse quickly is encouraged. I don't look to the show ring for the really refined horsemen now, why would it be any different in the past?

    Just as now really soft, balanced horses and true horsemen and women are rare, I've no reason to believe that a hundred or two hundred years ago the same wasn't true. People don't really change.
    "No Texas roots and biases" from me.
    I found that interesting, would have the same if it had been any other they said.
    I just repeated what Don Dodge and others said.
    That is supported by the pictures and drawings of old.
    While we may change oral history and what some may remember may not have been quite so, those old pictures don't lie.
    You have to take that with the old timers, that is who said that, time and again, while talking about those differences in horse training.

    I really don't know.


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  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccoronios View Post
    Aktill, could you elaborate further on this (preferably with pictures)?
    Sure, though you'll have to specify what you want clarification on.

    Grazer bit (relatively high port for such):
    http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org/...ges/yates3.jpg
    - open bottom port will tend to have the bit settle at best low on the tongue, or possibly touching the bars depending on the horse. If you "relieve" tongue pressure, the pressure has to go somewhere.

    Cathedral bit:
    http://www.3gemstack.com/catalog/21150.a.zoom_thumb.jpg
    -has a port with a spoon top, no cricket (roller), open on the bottom of the mouth, no braces (wires with copper rollers or wraps that join the port to the cheek pieces).

    Here's a spade (looks identical to mine, might actually be the one I bought):
    http://www.vaquerohorseman.com/Resou...itmouthpi.jpeg
    http://www.vaquerohorseman.com/Resources/haenerbit.jpeg
    -loose jawed bit, which means there's a little play between the mouthpiece and cheeks (a bit of "jiggle")
    -straight bar mouthpiece with a little crown or mullen to lay across the tongue better. Straight bar is easier to pick up.
    -cricket acts like a pacifier, and promotes a wet mouth (as does the copper and sweet iron)
    -braces threaded with copper beads connect the spoon on top to the side cheeks, meaning a little jiggle or pre-signal in the cheeks will actually move the braces a little. This allows for more signal before actually moving the mouthpiece itself. The "open construction" of the braces (as opposed to some which are tight beside the spoon like so http://geneklein.com/images/custbit1.jpg) makes a kind of cradle to help the horse pick up the bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by ccoronios View Post
    I think a 'spoon' is a spoon-shaped port (in simplest terms)? But what is a brace? 'Open ports'? Not covered, like a Salinas or Mona Lisa is?
    Could be open in that sense, but I really meant that it didn't have a straight bar across from cheek to cheek.

    Quote Originally Posted by ccoronios View Post
    Also, swimming around in my head is the CONCEPT of a horse carrying the bit, but it's too muddy to distinguish in this sentence: "You'll learn later that horses can't actually pick up and carry these bits, they just hang off the headstall."
    Basically, a horse couldn't do the same thing with a grazer that the horse in the spade photo did. Even if it kept it's mouth closed the grazer would clunk down onto the canine teeth. Not enough material to pick it up.

    Why does that matter? Signal. The horse carrying the bit can detect movement in the bit because it's not moving independently of his tongue. There's less "white noise" from the bit moving around as he moves his head.

    With the other bits, there's little to no pre-signal. Any movement of the rein moves the mouthpiece.

    Quote Originally Posted by ccoronios View Post
    Thanks - I LOVE this conversation and your knowledge...Thanks for sharing!
    No worries, happy to help.


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  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    "No Texas roots and biases" from me.
    I found that interesting, would have the same if it had been any other they said.
    I just repeated what Don Dodge and others said.
    Had to take the mickey out of you when I saw where you were from There were lots of good hands in both camps, and still are. There were plenty of competitions between them then, and the lines still run pretty firm in a lot of places.

    I don't doubt that the Texas traditions make for more high-scoring arena horses given the rule restrictions, but I don't think they makes better bridle horses.

    After all, find me a grazer bit horse that's moving like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M2GHf_wq6U
    ...as a bridle horse, let alone as the age this youngster is at this point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    That is supported by the pictures and drawings of old. While we may change oral history and what some may remember may not have been quite so, those old pictures don't lie.
    Photos were only widely available (ESPECIALLY documenting action) long after the time where vaquero horsemanship had it's hayday.

    Likewise with pictures, it was only the advent of stop-motion that showed what actually happened in a galloping horse. So of course pictures lie.

    These look pretty good though:
    https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphot...93025508_n.jpg
    http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/ima...tle-c-1800.jpg
    http://rlv.zcache.com/vaquero_1164_p..._8byvr_512.jpg
    http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto...65906609_n.jpg

    Sure there are lots of pictures showing hollow horses...happened back then as much as it does now, I'm sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    You have to take that with the old timers, that is who said that, time and again, while talking about those differences in horse training.
    I really don't know.
    Old timers have the same biases any do. For every pro-spade article there's probably 10 anti-spade ones. Same goes for the Texas vs California debate. Doesn't change my opinion one iota.

    Reiners banned long taps (more a California piece of tack) because they thought they were the reason the Californios had better spinning horses after all


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  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktill View Post
    Had to take the mickey out of you when I saw where you were from There were lots of good hands in both camps, and still are. There were plenty of competitions between them then, and the lines still run pretty firm in a lot of places.

    I don't doubt that the Texas traditions make for more high-scoring arena horses given the rule restrictions, but I don't think they makes better bridle horses.

    After all, find me a grazer bit horse that's moving like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M2GHf_wq6U
    ...as a bridle horse, let alone as the age this youngster is at this point.



    Photos were only widely available (ESPECIALLY documenting action) long after the time where vaquero horsemanship had it's hayday.

    Likewise with pictures, it was only the advent of stop-motion that showed what actually happened in a galloping horse. So of course pictures lie.

    These look pretty good though:
    https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphot...93025508_n.jpg
    http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/ima...tle-c-1800.jpg
    http://rlv.zcache.com/vaquero_1164_p..._8byvr_512.jpg
    http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto...65906609_n.jpg

    Sure there are lots of pictures showing hollow horses...happened back then as much as it does now, I'm sure.



    Old timers have the same biases any do. For every pro-spade article there's probably 10 anti-spade ones. Same goes for the Texas vs California debate. Doesn't change my opinion one iota.

    Reiners banned long taps (more a California piece of tack) because they thought they were the reason the Californios had better spinning horses after all
    But, but, you see, I am not from TX and don't really know that much about western riding, just what I have learned and none of that involves the West Coast type of riding.
    I was listening in on what they were talking about and I think what I say is reflected in some of the old books also.

    Be my guest, you probably know better.


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  15. #35
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    Pocketpony, your dressage saddle may serve you better than a common, not-too-expensive, western saddle for a while yet. Yes, you will need to have a horse that is rope-savvy, but in the meantime, having a saddle that puts your legs under you (rather than in a chair seat) and allows you to work off the balls of your feet is most important. Whether your dressage saddle will do this or not, or for that matter, your current western saddle, I can't say without photos of you riding.

    As for women instructors, Gwyn Turnbull Weaver is in Orland, CA and I have heard rave reviews of her clinics. They will necessarily involve cattle and roping, but from what I have seen and heard (from articles, clinic participants and such) she is representative of the 'real thing', not the ego-serving TV star type.
    http://www.thecalifornios.com/clinic_info.php

    Aktill, thank you for your time, this is a great and informative thread.
    I especially like the video you posted:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M2GHf_wq6U
    it shows the rider setting his hackamore horse up for the turns (to control the cow) by leg-yielding the horse. Doing this puts the horse on the 'correct' outside hind leg to turn his body and strike right of into a canter if needed. Without setting the horse up like this, a green horse will usually NOT turn very much parallel to the cow, the horse will rather just run forward into the cow's flight zone. This is called a 'motorcycle turn' by some, and it makes the cow run away faster and also makes her harder to control- if you're in her flight zone, you can turn her a new direction but you can't stop her. The video shows the horse controlling the cow very well, slowed down beautifully with the horse on the 'balance point' like a good border collie working sheep.

    About a bridle horse...
    I've heard Buck say that some horses will not ever be comfortable in a true spade bit, they will be in a half-breed bit instead.
    A half-breed bit is a bit with a straight-across mouthpiece, and probably a cricket or slight port, but no spade or braces. It is generally used with the two-rein (small hackamore underneath bridle).

    I've seen TONS of horses wearing a bridle bit, whether a spade or a half-breed, that were not bridle horses. I bought one last year! He may yet make a great bridle horse, but he's just about ready for a hackamore now.
    If a horse is really a bridle horse, you could put a double bridle on him and ride a 70% plus dressage test at second level...just without having your reins tight. A draping rein would do.
    If you've seen the Buck movie, you'll recognize Betty Staley of Montana. She has ridden Grand Prix dressage, and is quite a horsewoman:
    http://www.bettystaley.com/horsecatalog.html
    You can see from the photos that her dressage saddle is pretty much interchangeable with the Wade saddle...just easier to rope cattle in the Wade.

    I also heard Buck talking about amateurs making a bridle horse in my first Buck clinic in 2010...which was great, being pre-movie-hype. Anyway, he said that ANYone in the clinic had the potential to do it, though for some of us it might take a very long time. I noted he sort of alluded to the fact that right now, we were not capable, but if we were willing to learn and spend the time to do things right, we might find what we needed to know.

    And lastly, I think a lot of people are reluctant to learn to handle a rope, and not very interested in handling cattle. That is unfortunate, because the handling of my own cattle (by getting the cattle to where my idea is their idea...ie handling the cattle on a feel) has sped up my understanding of the horsemanship hugely.
    Unfortunately, there is as much poor/mediocre cattle handling as there is poor/mediocre horsemanship. But you'll find the roping and cattle handling clinics much less crowded than the Foundation or H1 clinics, with any of the Dorrance/Hunt 'real deal' clinicians.


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  16. #36
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    atkill, since you have a spade bit and have presumably gone through the experience of choosing one for your horse (vs buying the horse that came with the bit he liked), how do you decide which style? I've heard various town names, I think, related to type of bit (like Santa Barbara or Salinas or something like that?). Since they are so expensive, I would imagine you don't going around trying $2-$3k bits to see which one Dobbin likes best. So how do you figure it out???
    My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

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    Martin Black



  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pocket Pony View Post
    atkill, since you have a spade bit and have presumably gone through the experience of choosing one for your horse (vs buying the horse that came with the bit he liked), how do you decide which style?
    That was nerve wracking, I'm not going to lie. There's a long lead time on them too, most of the time.

    The first broad choice to make was obviously the type of bit in rough terms. I know lots of people believe in two reining in a half breed and moving to a full spade later, but that wasn't super appealing given half breeds are really more leverage bits. Happily, I was also told by other folks that sometimes it doesn't actually help to go that route, and if you want to make a spade bit horse you may as well just go with a spade bit in the first place.

    The next choice is the shank style, which is where you get the Santa Barbara, Santa Susanna etc etc. In rough terms, the swept back styles are slower acting, and are a bit more forgiving. They also require larger hand movements, as a result. I've always been drawn to the Santa Barbara's, so that was my choice.

    Next, port height. Despite popular belief, the taller ports are MORE forgiving, since there's more area to distribute pressure. Additionally,the further back in the mouth you get,the greater the distance to the palette. I went with a recommendation from Richard Caldwell on 4" being a good start. Makes it illegal as a competition bit (3.5" max), but I didn't care.

    Next, weight. If you have a selection of bits, a slightly lighter 1.5lb two rein bit can be nice. I went with a 2lb bridle type bit because I can't afford to have two. Richard said if you could only have one, go with the heavier bit, since they tend to have a better feel, they're just a bit more for the horse to get used to at once.

    Last, leverage. Generally on a spade, 2:1 is right for most horses. Richard knows my horse is a little different (Icelandic), so he ordered me a 1.5:1 instead. Changes the balance a little and doesn't require them to be quite as flexed at the poll (tougher on a pony with a thick throat latch).

    Finally, style in terms of decoration. I knew I wanted an early California style, so I just let Bruce Haener go where his artistic sense was telling him to go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pocket Pony View Post
    I've heard various town names, I think, related to type of bit (like Santa Barbara or Salinas or something like that?). Since they are so expensive, I would imagine you don't going around trying $2-$3k bits to see which one Dobbin likes best. So how do you figure it out???
    The first three months, I just hung it in his mouth in the grooming stall when i was brushing him down. He was never really worried except for on the first day, but he would mouth it constantly and maddeningly. I started to have to pick times when it was only my fiancé and I at the barn, since the cricket was driving other folks nuts. Was getting a little worried!

    Eventually I just decided to ride out in it in my two rein gear, with the bridle reins loose. It was only then that my horse clued in on how to pick a bit up, and after a couple of rides he's been fine ever since. Even just standing around now, he'll just quietly hold onto it or let it hang loose. He only tends to roll the cricket if he gets nervous, anxious, or bored, which is the point.


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  19. #39
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    This is one of the most interesting threads ever on COTH and I thank you posters who are knowledgeable on the subject.

    It is a whole new education. I'd love to see some of the competitions.
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


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  20. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fillabeana View Post
    As for women instructors, Gwyn Turnbull Weaver is in Orland, CA and I have heard rave reviews of her clinics. They will necessarily involve cattle and roping, but from what I have seen and heard (from articles, clinic participants and such) she is representative of the 'real thing', not the ego-serving TV star type.
    http://www.thecalifornios.com/clinic_info.php
    Filabeana, thanks for this recommendation, she's actually not too far from me. I wonder if she does private lessons in between clinics? Perhaps I'll get in touch...
    My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

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