Help please - serious bolting problem

TB_horse

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Hi, I'm new here. Looking for some advice as to what to do/try next.

I have a TB ex-racehorse who is fine in the school and on quiet country lanes. But, as soon as we are on grass he prances around, jogs, head bangs and quite often just bolts. He will go from walk, to flat out gallop and i can't stop him. He has a myler bit in at the moment and i am going to change to something stronger. However he is quite sensitive with his mouth and any bit thats remotely chunky or has a join he can't have - he head bangs non stop.

Normally i ride him with light contact etc in the school and we are fine, but he is getting too dangerous to ride out on fields now, and i am not sure what bit to try. Also worried that no matter what bit is in he may just bolt and he does it in very dangerous places.

Any advice over what you would do?
 

angelfben

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If it were me I'd concentrate on getting him used to respecting and listening to you on grass until he realises that working on grass is no different to anywhere else. I might get shot down in flames for this but to be honest I'd put whatever bit/noseband on him I needed to keep control at least initially - bolting is very dangerous (though if he's mouthy perhaps a pelham with 2 reins or something similar would be a good start so you only had to use the curb when needed?).

Take him somewhere he's likely to bolt and make him work... if he bolts bring him back under control as soon as you can and then push him on and make him work - hard. School him, make him canter in big circles, make him work until he doesn't want to run anymore and then make him work past that point. Then calmly carry on with your hack. Do this every time you're on grass, don't try and hold him back until he bolts of his own accord, channel the energy into doing something you want. Eventually he will get bored and realise that grass isn't such a novelty.

Alps is a bugger for this as well, as soon as his feet touch grass he starts rearing and "tiggering" and trying to take off with me, I always make him work through it for 10 or 15 minutes in trot and canter before letting him actually gallop else he's just dangerous as you have no control whatsoever :rolleyes:

When we used to get horses in at dealers I worked at if they were confirmed bolters we'd take them down to the beach, let them bolt then once they were tired and tried to slow down push them on.. and on....and on...! Not one of them ever bolted more than once ;)

Edited to add: I just re-read and clocked he is an ex-racer... so he's just doing what he's always been taught to then bless him :rolleyes: Just take him right back to basics, he has to realise that he's not expected to leap into gallop as soon as his feet touch grass anymore. I still stand by lots of work nice and calm just pottering about in places he usually bolts until he gets the message grass doesn't always mean run!
 
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clarabella_78

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Jun 6, 2007
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I have a TB ex-racer too. On cultivated land he's fine, but somewhere wild with long grass he acts like an idiot - prancing and sideways cantering. He doesn't bolt though, thank goodness. Someone on here told me that shortening of the reins is a sign to racehorse to go faster - if you're doing that because you expect to need to hold him back, maybe it's actually making him worse? I ride my boy with a long rein as that's what he's comfortable with.
 

madlady

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Jun 27, 2006
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Hi, I know this can be a problem with ex-racers. How long have you had him and do you know if he went through any rehab process before/since you got him??

I can understand that you just want a stronger bit to stop him but that won't really solve your problem long term - he needs to be reeducated that he doesn't automatically gallop when his feet hit turf. Not his fault really as thats how he's been trained up until coming out of racing.

Greatwood used to do a lot with rehab of ex-racers, maybe they can give you some suggestions or help.
 

TB_horse

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Thanks, for your advice. It is difficult though, because he is so fast and so out of control when he does bolt, we don't have anywhere really safe enough (unless it were an actual gallops) to let him go and push him on. He will just keep going until something gets in the way (and round here thats hedges if you are lucky or roads if you're not). Admittedly, this may get better with a bit change, if i am able to get more brakes. But is hard to test the brakes until its too late if you see what i mean. On grass if i get him cantering thats it hes gone! In the school i can't really test brakes as he doesn't push me, hes quite calm and collected.

The bolting problemhas already caused serious injury to rider, so i don't want to take too many risks if you see what i mean.
 

TB_horse

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I have a TB ex-racer too. On cultivated land he's fine, but somewhere wild with long grass he acts like an idiot - prancing and sideways cantering. He doesn't bolt though, thank goodness. Someone on here told me that shortening of the reins is a sign to racehorse to go faster - if you're doing that because you expect to need to hold him back, maybe it's actually making him worse? I ride my boy with a long rein as that's what he's comfortable with.

I ride him with a long rein too and sit deep, as i found with my last ex racer thsi helped. With him, once he flips he really flips and nothing works.

He is 15 and don't think he had any formal rehab, but has been doing general ridig since. I have only had him 6 months and he is very different in reality to how they made him out to be! He was fine when i tried him but i think was mostly down to being v.v.v.unfit!!

I have done some reschooling with him. I try to do stuff like schooling him on grass so as to stop the association with always galloping on grass. We also spent the first hacks just walking the whole time, but more recently (and as hes got more fit), hes decided he'll just run through any contact i have
 
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Kathryn128

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May 21, 2007
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OMG :eek:

My TB does the exact same thing, literally. I don't think he's ever raced, but it's that attitude he's got :rolleyes: Last time, overexcitement combined with spooking seriously resulted in him bolting almost all the way back to the yard, dumping me on the way :rolleyes:

As much as I hate having to gadget him up, the only way we can do open fields is if I use draw reins, which I despise, but it's the only way we can go out hacking at all :( His owner has had him do it to her too, and it's the way she solves it... I haven't had the b*lls to go out since :eek: So can't comment on the effectiveness of the draw reins.

I do have a few ideas that I'm using to work on it though. Try schooling/lunging for a while (maybe 30 mins) before you go out, it might take the edge off.

I thought briefly about a calming supplement, but he's fine in every other aspect, just when we hit open fields, so I didn't want him lazy and drugged for that one reason. I know they are lifesavers for lots of people though!

Just walking across open fields and working up to trotting over lots of time might help in the long run too.

Bitting could help (Merlyn's getting his changed, he's in a happy mouth jointed full cheek snaffle), I'm sure someone will know more about that though! Whilst he's still a bolter though, I'd put him in whatever it takes to stop him, cruel though that may sound. Neither of you are any good to anyone if you're squished under a lorry ;)

Hope that helps :)
 
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capalldubh

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May 26, 2006
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Here's an alternative idea that might get around the fact that he's probably trained to go faster when you take up a contact.

I have trained my boy with a lot of different cues for stop (we ride in a bitless bridle at the moment, so no amount of hauling on the reins is likely to have much effect). My main cue for stop - that is working at all speeds - is also a sort of calm down cue and came out of me using a neck strap to stop him - I just run my hand down his mane towards his withers.

I guess we just all have it in our heads that the only cue to stop that a horse will understand is a cue through the reins, but if a horse has been trained to race, we're probably not giving him the cues he understands. Why not just choose a cue and train it, starting on the ground, then at walk, trot etc?
 

angelfben

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Are you tensing up and gathering a contact in anticipation for him to bolt? As others have said this might be a signal to him to go and he's confused about what you're asking. Have you tried relaxing and if he does bound off just loosen the contact and let him go for a few strides then bring him back with intermittent rein pressure and your seat? A steady contact is encouargement for a racer to run, whereas pull and then release he will understand more clearly you want him to pull up. I know it can be terrifying when a horse bolts but you do need to try and stay calm and work him through it until he realises what you are asking.

I agree he needs to learn but it's impossible to teach something if you can't correct the unwanted behaviour, if you can't physically stop him in the first place then you're stuffed from the start. If he is otherwise well schooled as you say then he should understand that you are asking him to stop - his desire to run might just be over-riding this bless him.

Which is why I wouldn't be against initially trying a stronger bit to regain control and then showing him what you want from him before being able to revert back to a gentler bit. I'm not saying strap his head down and put him in a strong bit, in my mind strong or 'correctional' bits are just that - a short term training aid. If he's flinging his head up though I'd be tempted to lean more towards poll or noseband pressure than a strong bit itself, especially as he has a nice mouth as you say and being off the track he could get confused between gathering a contact/pressure on the mouth = go faster.
 

TB_horse

New Member
OMG :eek:

My TB does the exact same thing, literally. I don't think he's ever raced, but it's that attitude he's got :rolleyes: Last time, overexcitement combined with spooking seriously resulted in him bolting almost all the way back to the yard, dumping me on the way :rolleyes:

As much as I hate having to gadget him up, the only way we can do open fields is if I use draw reins, which I despise, but it's the only way we can go out hacking at all :( His owner has had him do it to her too, and it's the way she solves it... I haven't had the b*lls to go out since :eek: So can't comment on the effectiveness of the draw reins.

I do have a few ideas that I'm using to work on it though. Try schooling/lunging for a while (maybe 30 mins) before you go out, it might take the edge off.

I thought briefly about a calming supplement, but he's fine in every other aspect, just when we hit open fields, so I didn't want him lazy and drugged for that one reason. I know they are lifesavers for lots of people though!

Just walking across open fields and working up to trotting over lots of time might help in the long run too.

Bitting could help (Merlyn's getting his changed, he's in a happy mouth jointed full cheek snaffle), I'm sure someone will know more about that though! Whilst he's still a bolter though, I'd put him in whatever it takes to stop him, cruel though that may sound. Neither of you are any good to anyone if you're squished under a lorry ;)

Hope that helps :)


I can identify with that feeling. I am scared to try stuff now, as he bolted all the way home, ditching me in the process (i bailed out just before we got to the concrete as decided i was gonna die if stayed on). I had quite a lot of major injuries including a bleed on my brain. This is getting better, but i can't take any chances in future - next time i may be dead.

He has a lot of issues in general, uncontrollable separation anxiety when taken away from other horses, and with him when he gets excited or freaked or whatever he just switches off and nothing i say or do changes it. No-one else can cope with him either at my yard, and some people have even suggested having him put down. There is NO WAY i will do this before anyone says anything, but i am desperate
 

Kathryn128

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May 21, 2007
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I can identify with that feeling. I am scared to try stuff now, as he bolted all the way home, ditching me in the process (i bailed out just before we got to the concrete as decided i was gonna die if stayed on).

That's exactly what I did when it happened two weeks ago. Evil thought went through my head actually (if he's going to run, on concrete, into the path of a car, I'm certainly not going with him). Thankfully I was just badly winded, nowhere near what you've been through.

Ignore what the people on your yard are saying, me and Merlyn get this sometimes too, because he's a chronic windsucker and loses concentration v.v.v.v. easily. (We can't school when there are jumps around :rolleyes: he won't concentrate and will just run around with his nose in the air)

I'd get proactive about this immediately, and hard though I know it is, try not to be scared of him. Try some rescue remedy, apparently that helps. Have a play with some bitting, and make sure nothing in his feed could be heating him up at all. Merlyn too has a soft mouth, but his happy mouth is changing to a metal one, and he's always worn a flash. You don't need to change it drastic amounts, and angelfben's idea about the pelham with the curb rein if you need it is a good one.

When you go out, (though I haven't been brave enough to try this), try some of the things suggested, and do let us know how you get on!

And well done for sticking by him despite the injury he's caused, don't know if I could do the same :)
 

capalldubh

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He has a lot of issues in general, uncontrollable separation anxiety when taken away from other horses, and with him when he gets excited or freaked or whatever he just switches off and nothing i say or do changes it. No-one else can cope with him either at my yard, and some people have even suggested having him put down. There is NO WAY i will do this before anyone says anything, but i am desperate

I would say then that it's not just the one issue of bolting -the horse has lots of things going on of which the bolting may be a very visible example. I'd say maybe better to treat the cause not the symptoms? Think about consulting a qualified equine behaviourist, not a trainer - I've heard good things about Ben Hart, for example :) Not sure where you're based, but I know of others too.
 

TB_horse

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I would say then that it's not just the one issue of bolting -the horse has lots of things going on of which the bolting may be a very visible example. I'd say maybe better to treat the cause not the symptoms? Think about consulting a qualified equine behaviourist, not a trainer - I've heard good things about Ben Hart, for example :) Not sure where you're based, but I know of others too.

Yes i have though about it, we are looking inot it and trying some stuff. Have been focusng on doing a lot of groundwork etc. He has stress issues...if he gets stressed out he just goes crazy and in stable is chronic weaver.

Kathryn128 and angelfben - yes i think you are right i need to try and get on and tackle it, and maybe a stronger bit would be a short term solution to reduce the danger factor. Still not allowed to ride at moment, but will be within next month or so hopefully, so need to get an action plan. And what u say about well done for sticking by him.........i have to admit the main reason is although someone felt ok to sell this problem on to me, i won't do that to someone else or to him. In a way i wish i had never got him, as hes done so much damage, and if i could afford livery for 2 i might consider just having him as a companion. Sadly can't afford to double the livery and can't sell him, so i'm stuck with it :(

Don't get me wrong hes an absolute cutie and i love him - you should have seen him the first time i hobbled to the field after the accident - looked like he'd seen a ghost!!! I swear he though he'd killed me bless him :)
 

angelfben

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Hmm what you need is an endless beach like we had :rolleyes::D

Does he throw his head up and tank off with you? If so look at something that will bring his head down to regain control.. a pelham or something with poll and nose pressure. How is he with another horse? What if the other horse was calmly walking/trotting - you say he has seperation issues so would he still run if it were away from another horse?
 

TB_horse

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Hmm what you need is an endless beach like we had

Does he throw his head up and tank off with you? If so look at something that will bring his head down to regain control.. a pelham or something with poll and nose pressure. How is he with another horse? What if the other horse was calmly walking/trotting - you say he has seperation issues so would he still run if it were away from another horse?

He doesn't put his head right up no, he more just pulls straight through the contact like a train. He just does a sudden forward burst of energy and no amount of pulling, or loosening, or soothing words or sitting deep or whatever i try makes the blindest bit of difference.

You are right if i had a bit of distance like a very long beach then i would be less worried and it might give me better opportunity to test my brakes! I live nowhere near any beaches!!!

He is better in company, if the other horse is calm. But it doesn't stop him really. As he hates being away from other horses in general, but is a bit different when ridden. I think the racehorse training kicks back in and he wants to beat all the other horses :rolleyes::D
 

angelfben

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I had a similar problem with an old horse I had, he wouldn't so much bolt as in flat out panic-gallop but he just wouldn't stop! :rolleyes: Then when you hit anything wall/hedge etc. the little sod would take a death leap and try and jump it :eek:

Will he turn when he takes off with you? Could you get him in a big circle so at least you wouldn't run into anything? Or do you not have the space to allow that - (if your off-road riding is as cr*p as ours you're lucky to have a 6feet wide path never mind a field to play with :rolleyes: ) ?

If he is not panicing and just being rude, and knows exactly what you are asking (i.e. STOP) I would not feel at all guilty about giving him a kick up the arse in a stronger bit or noseband combination and making it very clear stop means stop. Then he can have his fun when you say go! A Pelham might be a good start as you can then used the second rein to say "OI!" when you need to but can use the snaffle rein the rest of the time?
 

Jane.A

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Do you have to hack out? Why not concentrate on improving your all round relationship using things like parelli games, and schooling. All this will improve his respect and confidence in you. The TB rehab places spend months on rehabilitating racehorses so I would try and get in touch with one of them. I have had a couple of ex-racers. I turned them away for 6 months to completely let them down, then re-backed and long lined round the roads etc before hacking out, first just on the roads. Would school them and then in summer would put the dressage markers and jumps in small paddock we had and school in and around them before riding in totally wide open spaces. I dont think bitting is the answer. Race horses stop when you drop the contact, not take a stronger one. You might consider the one rein stop, you bring either the left or the right rein up and head around towards your knee, but they have to be taught what it means first by doing it in the school. Life is short and very precious, I spent two years in a wheel chair and 5 years on crutches after a horse accident. I had countless major surgeries, all of which was tremendously hard on those around me. You owe it to yourself and your family to get help and take reasonable precautions to ensure your safety if you wish to continue riding this horse. your sentiment about not passing him on is a laudable one, but not if it ultimately costs you your life, or quality of life. Please try speaking to Carrie Hunnable or one of the rehab racehorse yards, they may be able to offer valuable assistance.
 
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hello, just sure if any of the below will help, but here goes :)

1. Racehorses are trained that when rider pulls on reins, horse is supposed to go faster. So if you're on an ex-racer who hasn't been formally retrained, he might still think this, either all the time, or when he gets outside, and the excitment of everything takes over. At the end of this post I'll copy and paste a groundwork exercise you can do to retrain the brakes.

2. Lets see what other reasons could be causing this issue. Maybe too much food, and not enough turnout, for the type / amount of work your horse is doing? A lot of energy in, and not enough work to use it up can cause this type of issue.

3. Sore teeth. Horses with sore teeth can bolt. Might be worth a check vet-dentist checkup.

4. Sore back. Horses with sore backs can bolt. Ex-racehorses I'd imagine could be prone to having dodgey injuries due to the fact they might have been raced as 2 and 3 yos, when their bones weren't yet fully developed, and it could have caused damage.

5. Horse, when excited forgets you are the boss :) Figure out what places you are in control (maybe his normal paddock or arena), what places are 50/50 (you have less control) and what places you have no control (grass fields).

Now make a list of all the things you can do in the safe place (arena etc), starting with the simplest thing first. Eg. I can lead horse perfectly in arena. I can ask him to backup in arena, I can ask him to do a HQ yield in Arena. I can get up in arena, I can stand still in arena, I can ask for a step back in arena.

You might have 30 things you can do well in safe place / arena, 10 things you can do well in 50/50 place (maybe roadway to field etc), and maybe just 1 thing you can do well in open field.

First of all get all these 30 things perfect (seriously) in safe place. Then pick the easiest one of these, and try it in the 50/50 place. If your horse gets it right (and its a good achievement) actually stop, get off, lead horse home. Doesn't mater if you've just spent 5 minutes out in 50/50 place. This will have a huge positive impact on your horse. He'll be thinking 'I must have done something pretty impressive to end the lesson!'.

I'd advise maybe ten minute lessons, if possible each day or if you live near horse, maybe twice a day.

What you want to do is, one task at a time, get those 30 tasks which are perfect in the arena, perfect in the 50/50 place. When they are perfect in the 50/50 place, then take the easiest one (maybe halt-backup on ground) out into the big field.
For the first riding one in the big field, I'd say walk out at edge of field, stop, and then backup. Then if horse does it, get off, lead home, end lesson.

The idea is that you build stuff up slowly, lots of small little steps, trying to improve your horses behaviour while keeping both of you safe. It'll take a few weeks, but should help, but the groundnwork retraining below will be very important too.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

GROUNDWORK EXERCISE TO RETRAIN BRAKES

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

It can be useful to know how to retrain a horse who is difficult to stop, or who you constantly find yourself in a tug of war with when riding, with both of you pulling on the reins or your horse leaning on your hands a lot.

Firstly, there's a few reasons you should look into - does your horse have sore teeth, back pain, badly fitting saddle (horses can run forward to get away from any sort of pain), badly fitting bit for his mouth shape, too much high energy food, not enough time outside to gallop around by themselves, etc.

You can retrain your horse's brakes if its just a learnt thing, but if its any of the things above, its better to fix those first in order for thr retraining to work. eg. If your horse pulls cos he has a sore tooth, you can retrain him all day but he'll still pull cos his tooth is sore.

OK, so you have checked that your horse has no issues such as above, and instead it is just a training issue. So lets retrain your horse.

GROUNDWORK

Lets start on the ground in an enclosed arena or small paddock, with just a headcollar and lead rope (ideally a nice 12 foot one)on your horse.

1. Stand slightly off centre in front of your horse, looking at his face. Give him a rub. He should be standing still and relaxed.

2. Put two fingers very lightly on where his noseband usually is, across the centre of his nose.

3. Softly put a little pressure on the nose (like a tiny push with both fingers - REALLY lightly) to ask your horse to take a step back.

4. Your horse will probably either stand there half asleep, or look out at whats happeneding next door. Thats fine. He hasn't figured out your asking him to do something yet.

5. Make this *light* nose pressure rhythmical. Touch with two fingers on noseband area, then take hand away, count for three seconds, then touch again on noseband area. Continue like this for 20 or 30 seconds. remebr this is something new for your horse, so give him time to think it out. Good teachers have patience

6. After maybe half a minute of this (remember the rest in between the light pressure, these rests are REALLY important, and your horse will normally move DURING a rest) keep that *light* nose pressure, but now gently throw the end of the lead rope towards your horses chest.

This is a bit like rubbing your stomach and patting your head but if you concentrate its possible

What you are looking for is for that *split second* where your horse is thinking what you are thinking.

So look at your horse's chest, and the second you see him start to shift his weight backwards, even bore a step has been taken, stop everything and just stand quietly beside him.

Repeat this, always starting from light nose pressure only, and only slowly building up to flicking the rope against your horses chest, until you see that slight movement backwards.

What you are doing is retrainig your horse to learn is that:

Light pressure on noseband area = think (and move) backwards.

Do this for two or three days, and work up from thinking backwards, to one step backwards, to two or three steps backwards over a few days. Don't rush, be patient, and only do it for max 5 mins a day. Keep your lessons short and interesting.

RIDING - reverse

Riding will only work if you've done the groundwork first.

1. Sit up on your horse, and stand still.

2. Pick up a very light contact on the reins.

3. Wait.

4. Your horse might try to shake his head, walk forward, walk sideways, waggel an ear, etc. Hold the light contact.

5. The *split second* you feel him *start/think* abotu moving backwrds - even before he takes a step backwards, release ALL pressure on reins (ie give him the reins in horse talk), then give him a rub, relax, and just enjoy the view.

6. Repeat for no more than 5 mins for a few days, only releasing all pressure on rein when horse either thinks of going back, or when you get good takes a step backwards.

RIDING - walk-halt-reverse
RIDING - trot-walk-halt-reverse
RIDING - canter-trot-walk-halt-reverse

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hope this is of some use :)
 
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M

missyL

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what nose band is he in? if you havent already then you could try a flash or a drop as this would make the bit more effective, also if he is head banging then a martingale might help as well. if not then you need to find what makes him stop, with my ex racer if i go with him and then ask him to come back with one half halt and talking to him then he does, and i ride him in a normal snaffle and cavesson noseband, although he does where a running martingale as he has a habit of rearing when he doesnt get his way!
anyway hope that i was of some help!:D
 
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