Healing Takes Time

So often we humans see things as either healthy or unhealthy, sound or unsound when it comes to our horses. Truth is, there are so many variations of condition that our horses are often somewhere in between and in the process of healing one thing or another most of the time.

Immune systems are on alert 24/7 and things like stress from weather conditions or travel or training can put additional strain on the body’s defenses. Tissue damage from wounds or strains will call in the resources of cellular support through granulation, inflammation, mineralization and/or fluid fill.

Obvious problems are dealt with promptly through Veterinary intervention or owner care and sometimes the human goes to “out of sight, out of mind” mode.  Many times a malady is addressed with the strongest allopathic medicine available which can suppress symptoms to ease the equine, but the condition and its cause are still viable. This makes the horse more vulnerable to further injury or illness because the body has not been given the time needed to actually heal.

Bodies know how to heal. All we do is support that process and reduce further damage while easing discomfort. If we remove the body’s own innate systems of protection (pain, inflammation and edema), then we must rest the horse and not act as if nothing had happened. Flesh, bone and blood need time to heal. Pain keeps the body from reinjuring something; inflammation acts as a natural “splint” to help immobilize a traumatized area.  All injuries receive an increased supply of blood to bring healing and detoxifying agents immediately to the site.

Sometimes, after a horse has not fully recovered “quickly enough”, alternative treatments are considered. At Dharmahorse, the “alternatives” of herbs, Homeopathy, hydrotherapy, oils and nutrition are our first choices as we endeavor to enhance healing while determining the underlying cause of disease or disorders. The pharmaceuticals that the Vet prescribes are in addition to our support of the body. We believe that relieving only the symptoms prolongs healing time.

As stewards of our horses, we need to take a “Whole Horse” approach and we must recognize that when the body is healing an injury or a malady it is at work! Rest is the great equalizer. “Tincture of Time” is the powerful remedy.

Since we have had horses here with skull fractures, cancers, laminitis, founder, split open hooves, COPD, ulcers, severed tendons, contracted tendons, heart murmurs, enteroliths, Uveitis, Cushing’s syndrome, arthritis, abscesses, hypothyroidism, no teeth, hives, bowed tendons, knocked down hips, upward fixation of the patella, pelvic misalignment and more… we have learned the lessons of patience. And we have learned that bodies really do know how to heal – given time, support, nourishment and love. Everyone at Dharmahorse is in one phase or another of healing, not only the horses, but the humans as well.

And that is the incredible symbiosis of horse/human relationships. We support each others’ healing with positive experiences, compassion, touch contact and empathy. When we can see the big picture of ongoing healthy choices and practices, we can heal each other.

herb properties

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Changes in the Weather

All animals are affected by the changes of season. Their “internal clocks” are moved by the changes of light as the earth tilts and the hemispheres have more and less daylight. Our horses are beings of Nature and their systems are ruled by these rhythms. Mares will cycle as the light increases. Horses start shedding their winter coats as the days get longer (more a factor than warmer weather!). It is the degree of the cold, day in, day out that determines the thickness of the winter coat.
Yet, changes in temperature, air pressure and moisture have a huge impact. Going from a warm climate to a cold climate is usually easier on the healthy horse’s metabolism than going from cold to hot. In all cases, they adjust, but more consideration is necessary for the horse who arrives at the desert or tropics with a heavy coat and circulatory system adjusted to keeping his core warm. This horse might need to be body clipped and might require fans in his shelter to help his sweat evaporate. We had this very thing at our Sanctuary when a horse arrived from Maine.
The horse arriving at a frigid location after leaving the heat will need shelter and probably need his water warmed a bit, but he will grow a proper long coat quickly and instinctively stay in motion to create body heat.
Water consumption can be influenced by the weather and with horses, the results can be life threatening. It is inadequate water intake that can set a horse on a downward spiral. While this can cause dehydration, overheating, kidney stress and mineral imbalances; it is the digestive disturbance that can become a matter of life and death in mere hours.
This “upset stomach” is called colic and it can be caused by toxins, rich or unfamiliar foods, gas, parasites, constipation or ulcers. The constipation is a result from low water consumption. It can very quickly turn into an “impaction colic” that can require surgery to alleviate.
Horses have long, twisting digestive tracts with a small stomach and an inability to vomit! All foods ingested have a massive, narrow path to negotiate and this requires a large amount of moisture. Horses on pastures have the advantage of eating food with moisture included. Horses on hay need fresh, clean drinking water available at all times. Horses that eat pellets or cubes need those soaked well in water before being fed.
If the weather turns cold suddenly, horses tend to drink less. If the weather turns hot suddenly, horses need to drink more than they are used to drinking. It’s a real balancing act. We feed regular sopping wet wheat bran mashes at our stable. The bran provides needed phosphorus for horses in our area of the country and is a base to which we add their healing herbs. And, best of all, it carries precious moisture into their guts every day. We have a tribe member who brings appropriate fresh, moist foods to the horses which also maintain “gut motility”.
Our 2017 “Owner Empowerment Workshop Series” starts off March 4th at Dharmahorse with an afternoon about Colic. These are workshops on “Prevent”, “First Response” and “Return to Health”. These three aspects are the foundation of care for horses who face any disease or disorder.
While none of us can control the weather, we can adapt our equine care protocols to support good health and soundness no matter what blows down the mountain. We can keep waterproof blankets handy; fly/dust masks, fans and clippers at hand; electrolytes to feed for excessive sweating; milk of magnesia to dose for hard dry stool and we can consult with Veterinarians, equine specialists and teaching stables to add to our knowledge tool kits.

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The Best of Us…..

A long time ago, I was married to a man who actually was old enough to be my father. While our relationship did not work out, there were some experiences I am so pleased to have had during my time with Bob.

He could not swim. Not that he flailed around in deep water – he dropped like a rock! Many of the things most of us have been able to do were impossible for Bob. Like going to the Water Park.

One of my favorite things used to be water parks. So…. with friends in tow who had children (often necessary for a day at the water park, justification, you see), I took Bob to Wet and Wild Water World.

His super pale skinny legs in shorts, wearing flip flops and a Harley T shirt, Bob looked as uncomfortable as he must have felt. At first.

I convinced him to trust me on some small slides with shallow landing pools where I rode down ahead of him, leaped off of my tube and stood by to catch him when he landed. And catch him it was! When he dropped from the slide into the 3 foot high water, he disappeared beneath it and I grabbed under his arms and pulled him immediately up to gasp some air.

Life guards stared and signaled at me and I told them, “he can’t swim” as he laughed and grabbed his tube to go again. “I’ve got him!” I told them and they stayed alert just in case.

Bob eyed the longer, scarier slides and soon found the courage to try them. I told him to count to 20 after I went down so I could get ready to catch him in the deeper water. The entire day was one of adventure for him and I was delighted to be his “catcher”! He never got buoyant, never was able to land on his feet, but he trusted me and had so much fun.

Our only casualty that day was the top of Bob’s feet – badly sunburned they were, having never seen the sun as far as I knew.

When we love, it becomes about that well being of those we love. When we love, it does not turn on and off like a switch. If we cannot live with someone, it does not mean something is wrong with them or with us. Instead of thinking about things that did not work out (in any relationship), I try to remember the times when the best of me found its way to the situation.

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Courage Willow

That’s what I often think, while remembering the scene in the movie, “Willow”. He is a tiny being standing before a frightening situation. He whispers to himself, “Courage, Willow”.

Life as a horse trainer and instructor requires courage. Life as anything these days requires courage! I think perhaps it always has.

Courage for me, as a stablewoman, means taking on another horse for our stable when needed….  it takes courage to decide to be responsible for one more. I think it’s because I take these responsibilities seriously. Horses are my family and each family member is not a possession, but a friend. It takes courage to have so many friends!


I see courage all around me. I had a student who had suffered a severe head injury in a car accident (and had been in a coma). She used her riding to regain motor skills and balance. She would call herself “wimp”, “chicken” and so on. I thought she was the bravest woman I knew. I know a man who broke his hip and was up, back to work in weeks and facing limited funds with an animal family to care for. He found a beautiful place to live where he could keep his horses and dogs and, by staying courageous, created a new, happy life.


I know a man who cares for a large herd of horses and runs an organization almost single handed. He has had a shattered ankle, broken hip (and replacement), a heart attack, had a branch embedded into his eye, the list is long of his “battles” and yet, he is still the strongest man I know. I can’t keep up with him loading hay! Courage is his mantra, I believe.

And I watch friends who rise every day to care for an elderly parent or an infirm child or who go to school while holding down a job (or two!). They practice great courage daily.

I dig the post holes for railroad ties for the fence to hold a new horse that is coming and soak in epsom salt baths each night. I remember looking at my shriveled arm as a child, after a devastating injury, and proclaiming that I would still ride. “Courage, Willow.”


We cannot presume to judge the courage of another. It may take more of it for someone to drive at night or to climb a ladder than it does for others to ride a bull. We are all facing different battles, different paths. But we all know what courage is! We all conjure it up on a daily basis and we need to pat ourselves on the back every time we take a deep breath and push onward.

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Managing Pain

The obvious fact that makes the management of pain in an animal so difficult is the inability of the animal to actually tell us in words what is happening. We can certainly speculate with injuries and illness and know that a horse is hurting; even likely pinpoint the location of the pain. And having a clear guideline is profoundly helpful.
In cases where we do not have clarity or certainty, we can observe the horse for “pain indicators”. These include, but are not limited to, increased heart rate, rapid respiration, sweating and shaking. A horse in pain might drop to the ground and roll violently or press himself against walls or fences. He might throw his head about or kick out in anguish. It is important for us to stay safe and alert when evaluating and treating horses that hurt.
A Veterinary exam can rule out some causes of symptoms and pinpoint areas of trauma or imbalance. Medications that suppress the symptoms are necessary, but equally important is discovery of the cause of those symptoms. Relief is realized by addressing the actual cause of pain after that pain is lessened.
In general: cold is applied to new, acute injuries and heat is applied to old, chronic injuries. In cold weather, application of blankets to the body and deep bedding in a proper pen with shelter will aid in comforting the horse and speed up healing. Leg injuries will usually require some type of support through bandages and/or boots to the leg and the hoof. If a single leg is injured, support of the remaining three legs will aid healing by keeping them from becoming stressed and injured. The horse is walking on “digits” – each leg is the equivalent of one of our fingers, so extra loading of uninjured parts can escalate to increasing injuries and pain.
Internal pain can be the result of digestive disturbances, even ulcers. A Veterinarian can properly assess the horse’s condition and supply the medications that relieve immediate suffering. The reasons for internal distress can be determined and any future reoccurrences prevented with proper diet, abundant water, an anti-parasite program and a stress free environment.
Inflammation can be a common cause of pain and anti-inflammatory drugs help short term in the beginning. Herbs that can prevent inflammation over long term use (ingested) are: white willow bark, celery seed, turmeric root, meadowsweet, yucca root, boswellia and devil’s claw. Herbs for external use as infusions are: arnica, comfery, peppermint and rosemary. Essential oils for pain are peppermint, lavender and anise seed. Do not use any drug or herb on pregnant or lactating mares without professional guidance.
Pain in a horse’s hoof can often be caused by bruising which can lead to abscesses that can be excruciating! Soaking the hoof in very warm epsom salt water for 30 minutes 3 times daily will draw out pain and abscesses. If you suspect a horse’s hoof sole has been bruised on a ride, dose him with homeopathic arnica or belles remedies as soon as possible. This can prevent or reduce the bruising.
Pain can be like a ghost that appears and disappears in a horse’s life. Tracking it down, identifying causes and choosing treatments can be challenging but rewarding. In the end, we must always see the horse as a whole and support the body’s good health at all times.

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Hot water bottles, hot tea, warm dogs and cold nights

I was always a fan of the hot water bottle… placed at my feet beneath the covers on winter nights, sometimes living in places with no heat. If I could warm my feet properly and had sufficient blankets, I could weather any situation. Tonight is our coldest night of this season. It will only be in the 30’s F, and my house is warm enough, but I dug out the real down comforters and made a pot of Kukicha tea. It is kind of fun to “play winter” right now.


Dogs make great body warmers in a bed on a cold night. I remember 2011 here with 80 mph wind gusts, 17 degrees below zero and rolling blackouts of power to be sure we had some electricity through the days and nights. That winter was hellish! I sequestered the dogs in the bedroom with me and kept a huge pot of water simmering on the (propane) stove. I drank hot tea, chocolate and soups to stay warmed. We stayed covered up, hung blankets over the curtains and I took hot water to make bran mashes for the horses every 3 hours (when the power would come on – on for 2 hours, off for 3). They had bales of hay in front of them and each wore two blankets. That handful of days felt like an eternity.

dogs on couch

Now, I have big clay flower pots, bread pans, foil and tea light candles to make an emergency heater… and even though we have more horses here at DH, there are enough blankets to double rug everyone if need be. I’m really hoping for a mild winter.

snow brahman

When I went to the pharmacy last year to get a hot water bottle, the clerk looked at me like I was from Neptune (you’ve heard me say this before…). She had no idea what I meant. So I thought about it, “enema bag?”, she showed me the Fleet syringes… then I saw a mature fellow behind a counter and he knew immediately what I needed.

I’ve been through this with: Epsom Salts, styptic pencil, Icthammol,  tannic acid, gention violet, zinc oxide, many items that no longer exist or are so esoteric that the young have no connection to them. The young…. when I think about it, I stump people older than I am! Maybe it’s more about advertising. People only know about products that are in ads these days?

I remember colic drugs like Jenatone ($12.00 for the big 120cc vial), now we have Banamine ($50.00 for the 50 cc vial)… we have complicated pharmaceuticals where we once had herbal based remedies. I had packets of Senna based colic drench from my Veterinarian that solved every tummy upset I had with my herd in the ’70’s.

So tonight I’m thinking about herbs and caretaking and staying warm and staying safe… in the middle of the very scary storms of 2011, I would never have thought I would be here, content, thriving and so full of joy about my life and its possibilities. All I thought then was, “Get us out of this alive!” We all just face each day, each night with our best courage and our hearts full of love. At least, that’s what I do. I finally quit trying to anticipate every possible situation. I told myself that I had survived everything so far… I should be okay with whatever shows up in my life. And lately, an ocean of joy has washed over me.

Katharine with Hank

I just got a phone call from a pleasant man asking for a donation for a worthy cause. I told him, “certainly, if you will match my donation with one to our Equine Sanctuary”. He thanked me and hung up. It made me smile.

This night feels so full of possibilities. “Just show up, be brave, be kind, rest, try again”.


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Catching Up

When I discovered the HOT WATER leak under my house months ago, I realized that the burning up of most of the propane in the tank would catch up with me come cold weather. It has. The sheer waste notwithstanding, it was an opportunity to witness the kindness of my neighbor who crawled under my house to kneel in (hot, arrgghhh) mud and cap off the leak. I love my neighbors.

I wish I had been quicker to realize that the immediacy of hot water’s arrival to the faucets was signalling me about the mishap. Dang, I had too much going on, I suppose. It was a series of days (arrrggghhhh) of subliminal prodding by something in my psyche that lit the bulb of awareness. Of course, when I opened the covering to the crawl space and heard the trickle, smelled the dampness and felt the heat (arrgghhh), the urgency became a panic! I guess I might have not realized until the gas had totally drained from the storage tank… need to be grateful for that.


So, the autumn has arrived with soppy, plopping dark clouds spilling over the mountain. Days of repeating rain and hail storms… temperatures requiring some blanketing of horses and… now… the electric oil filled radiators to ease the chill all speak of my folly. I am bathing less to conserve the propane for hot water. I am using my toaster oven and microwave. No worries. No suffering. This is easy…. but annoying since it is my own doing or lack thereof.

My beautiful picture

The gradually emptying propane tank is catching up with me!

My beautiful picture

I’m also trying with a bit of desperation to catch up on donation receipts. With an old, old computer affectionately named “HAL”, I have managed to lose, find, lose and recover the templates for my eReceipts and the ones already compiled and sent to the beloved persons who support the horses and good work we do here. My pile to send grows (which is so good!) almost daily and now, by the grace of a beloved one in my personal life, a new computer is on its way. Maybe, I will “catch up” soon (certainly I will!). And the awareness and compassion surrounding this gift has also provided me with speech recognition software to ease this process of putting words to “screen”. You see, with my injured hands, what someone else does without a second thought and within minutes can sometimes take hours for me to accomplish.

No complaints here. No disability here, just different abilities!!

So, I’ve worked on keeping the horses sound in the squish mud; worked on healing Penny with my “right” and “left” hands (Deb & Patty) and struggled with the changing light to get meals to the horses around a tighter schedule. It is simply the “catching up” with the natural rhythms… the pulse of the planet. I think about spring arriving in Australia. I think about my friends there rejoicing in the longer light and warmer weather promised by the season… I think about the consistency of Hawaii and my beloved cousin there. My world expands here on this screen and in my daily practice and deep in my heart.

My beautiful picture

I will make a cuppa Kukicha twig tea in a bit and have a proper visit with my dogs who have felt ignored all day. The air is so heavy and wet, the condensation drops from the ceiling of my porch at night like raindrops! Blessings in the high desert.

I envision being able to catch up on the Dharmahorse bookkeeping, to write more (and with more ease), to have time to play my didges and to actually ride perhaps! I have secret plans of the heart and hopefulness of soul. We’ll see. The main thing now is to just follow our mantra:

a concert 001

“Just show up, be brave, be kind, rest, try again.”

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Hot Flashes

I sat in the Moongate Cafe’ today, talking with a friend, eating bean tacos and just having a couple of hours away from responsibility, authority and computers!

I never want to be away from my horses or dogs, but I don’t mind being away when I need to recharge a bit. My friend and I started talking about hot flashes. I’ve had them. I left for Arizona in a new relationship a few years back to work on an Equine Rescue facility… when I got to Arizona menopause hit me. Now, I’m an herbal person just like my horses are herbal horses and I got through the changes rather well. But I remember actually enjoying the hot flashes through that winter! Then, as I recall, when I had to leave that rescue because of such differences in perspectives – the summer hot flashes were pure misery.

In Tubac, AZ during fire season (there were spring, summer, fall, winter and fire seasons…), working in my art studio in the Tower in Old Tubac, I absolutely melted. I painted more snow scenes that year than in my whole life before. I would not be able to tell if I was having a hot flash or if the world had just turned on convection “mode”.

My beautiful picture

When I needed to return to New Mexico to help my Mum, I rejoiced. After my return to the state I love, my flashes stopped. It was a short menopause. And, since my hair turned white when I was in my 20’s, I figured I was just wired differently than other peeps.

Today, I was reminded of that cyclical nature of being a woman. We spiral. We become. We change. It is really quite wonderful. A new friend called me resilient recently – I worked for an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program that was the focus of an English study that found being around horses makes humans more resilient. Then I must be especially so! There are only a handful of days in my entire life that did not include equine contact.

And being a woman makes me somehow upsetting to some peeps because I play didgeridoos – I have read that it is taboo (in OZ) and I have read that it was accepted in certain parts of the country; then I read that it was not taboo until this century… then a friend in the UK said it is good luck in this northern hemisphere for a woman to play a didge.

a concert 002

All I know is: I breathe better when I play, I sleep better when I play; I relax when I play… and I did the circular breath well (even have it on a video) until a bit of bronchitis last winter… all this tells me is that I need to play more! I could not take a didge to Hawaii, but I found a PVC pipe in my cousin’s garage that worked reasonably well! And that’s another aspect of being a horsewoman – we have to think beyond the box.


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Of hell and Augusts, horse sweat and sailing home

It has felt as if we were melting – these past days of such humid, heat rising oppression. With sweating horses and rabbits sprawled across every damp piece of shaded earth, I have felt the job of bearing water become a matter of life and death. I fill the recently scrubbed clean tubs as the sun sets and wonder about the discomfort of those left to their own ingenuity to stay hydrated…

I take running water and ice from the fridge for granted. I know that I do, and I take our air conditioned home for granted… yet, I thank the faucets and I thank the central air’s thermostat and I thank the freezer daily, out loud, with intent. I feel deep gratitude as I slip into the heavy night, but I only faintly recall living in the shack with so much less (and my life is by no means posh now!)… I have to remind myself of the nights when I looked at the red digital display of my old alarm clock at 11:34 and thought, night after depressing night, that it spelled “hell” backwards if I let my head drop back… thinking “I live in hell” at that time in that place.

The hot air, hot floor, hot windows keep me deep in the thinking rather than doing my yoga or reading a book. I feel both agitated and lethargic and simply blame the weather. A small glass of wine opens the blood vessels and my breaths come more easily.

A year ago SO much was different. I cannot think about a year ago. I was a different woman then. My purpose was different then. My peace sang from different lips and my back ached until it pulled my neck to distorted proportion. Nothing is what it was in the last August I knew.

So, this marker of much emotion, loss, hope, joy, excitement, this August – it speaks to me of the charmed life I live. Of bouncing back. Of seeing only love. Of being trustworthy. Of being real.

Setting sail…that’s what I am doing. This “ship” is releasing from the dock of uncertainty and bobbing out into a sea of adventure. The horses are joining me, the dogs are joining me, a community now joins me as advocates for the unwanted and unloved. WE have the capacity to love each other SO MUCH that even the deep scars dissipate and the tortures of the past are healed just like staring at a cloud until it evaporates into the blue.

It has felt as if we are melting. The summer has held us to task physically and mentally. The world is speaking a new language, a dialog of love and of possibilities of peace. I refuse to melt. I intend to listen closely.

Organ mntn

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Chook-like RR’s and the love of old friends and old horses

I have spent the past week and a half checking on a friend’s horse every other day. This 35 year old gelding was bitten by a rattlesnake just before my friend had to leave for South America. This horse has been a friend of mine, too, for 30 years!

Plenty of people are taking care of the horse and the property. My friend’s Vet and her neighbors are checking him, too. This horse is very much loved. For me, the drive to her farm was some striking deja vu! To see Adam in his pasture with his “stovepipe” swollen hindleg was startling, but day by day, the leg has returned to near normal.

I helped train this horse from a youngster. I coached my friend in her Dressage for decades! I feel like they are part of my family. I feel connected to them in ways much deeper than just as their trainer.


And, true to form for me, I have not written down the expected time of my friend’s return. Crikey, I do this to myself… all too often. But I’m so glad to drive the near 30 miles to check Adam and 30 miles home – playing Fine Young Cannibals in my Ranger and watching the alfalfa drying in fields in long rolled rows. Then I get to see the machines crawling along the fields baling the hay. I get to smell the sweetness and drive under ancient trees whose variegated light and shadow shows make my eyes twitch!

Then, I arrive to the great clouds of mosquitoes! Along the winding dirt road to the farm I see two more old friends! An elderly chestnut gelding and his companion mule… still in their small field… still watching the occasional vehicle slip by followed by a cloud of reddish dust. The farm is only a few hundred meters from the Rio Grande river. The river is actually full right now, churning, muddy, brilliant water moving by from north to south. All of this is a welcome respite. An excuse to be alone and thoughtful and to be a couple of hours in my past, in my heart, in my own presence.

My beautiful picture

The mosquitoes are a bit daunting. I forget about how overwhelming they can be. I have been grateful for my high desert, side of the mountain home for so many reasons and I add one more this week, to the list.

So, the rattlesnake thing is unsettling as well. I have heard of three more horses to be bitten by rattlers in our area over the past few weeks. I took homeopathic rattlesnake nosode to share with my friend and put the rest of my bottle where I could find it quickly!

But we now have a group of young roadrunners at Dharmahorse. They are almost as tame as chooks and follow me around as they grab big beetles and (to my horror) chase young doves and my giant lizards about. I am glad they are here (the Universe provides) because roadrunners kill, eat and chase away rattlesnakes.

My beautiful picture


I worry about my bullsnakes… I worry about the lizards (big as iguanas!) and the young doves and baby bunnies… but I’ve been talking to the roadrunners/chooks asking that they choose their meals from dangerous creatures and that they devour the big beetles filling our trees… they look at me and tilt their heads and the message I get very clearly is that they are doing the best they can… just like I am doing the best I can!


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