Trotters, Arabians, Donkeys and Other People - Page 24 - The Horse Forum
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post #231 of 2633 Old 07-10-2015, 09:15 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Australia
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Hmm, what can't I do? Lots of things!

I can't julienne carrots, so my husband does that. I can't seem to walk around a building without colliding with an article of furniture sooner or later. I can't suffer fools gladly. My husband, when I asked him this question, says I'm useless at plastering the top line adjoining the ceiling (he's very good at it, so it's his specialty when we plaster), but then he's relatively useless at mathematics. Or horse riding. Which makes me, by comparison, useless at kendo or oriental sword-fighting (his speciality). I can't and don't want to programme a computer. I passed calculus but have difficulty conceptualising it - and anyway, calculus is actually calcified plaque that a dentist will remove from you (so, I've had all my calculus removed, haha).

Oh look, I could list lots of things! And this is actually fun!

Writing Grass Roots articles doesn't make me a proper journalist. It's a lunatic fringe type publication. People write articles in it on things like how to eat prickly pear cactus, how to make irrigation systems from PET bottles that required hand turning in order to spread the water (so you might as well just be done with it and use a hose in the first place), 1001 uses for a dead fridge, how to catch pests in live traps and release them safely into wildlife habitat or your neighbour's yard (not worded quite like that, but that's the upshot), and how to do astrological gardening. They also have useful articles in the mix though - and it is the most popular self-sufficiency magazine in our country.

I might have to try writing for other publications to merit anything like "journalist". Of course, I journal, and so do you, so are we journalists in that sense, or journal-keepers?
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post #232 of 2633 Old 07-13-2015, 08:45 AM Thread Starter
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Continuing, from the top of the previous page of this journal, the narrative of events at Reitschule Eurastetten in 1981:

Mingo, our Family's First Horse

So here he was, officially ours, scrawny, with missing strips of fur from altercations loading onto transport, partially educated, front hooves so long and habitually left long between shoeing to the point he already had contracted heels at barely four years old, and with a lousy reputation for throwing riders and fighting back when treated without tact or consideration.

I quizzed my family to see if anyone recalled any details of the actual sale, which I don't. My father laughed and said he clearly remembered one thing: That when it was my turn to do a ride on the sale day, the horse was unsettled at the tie ring, probably by some commotion (or maybe because of past run-ins with the proprietor), and Mr Walters was saying, "Just get on, like this" and he demonstrated, and immediately slipped off the other side and hit the ground, as the horse gave a casual little lift of his hindquarters and lowered his head.

I personally have never liked mounting horses when they are unsettled - I wait until they are settled, and if talking isn't enough, groundwork will do the trick. I do remember that I was apprehensive about being pushed to mount an unsettled horse by an adult. Mr Walters was not my instructor, and my instructor Monika had never asked such a thing from us. I did eventually mount the horse and ride him around the arena without incident, as before. My parents did the same thing, and following that, the horse changed ownership, and we had our first ever own horse.

My parents and I are instinctively good with animals. I can go into a cow paddock with a strange herd and start getting their confidence within ten minutes, just hanging out with them. They will come up and hobnob and touch their noses to my hand and sooner or later, I will be scratching one on its face, then its ears, eventually its shoulders and back. Not pet cattle, beef cattle who, although generally highly curious, are generally nervous about letting humans too close to them if there is a choice.

It's always been like that for me. I respect their size and the potential for getting knocked over, but I've never been afraid of being near large animals. I respect their etiquette and don't advance contact if they are saying, "Hold it!" - I have to have a "maybe" for that. I always just sit still and let the herbivore make the first move towards contact. I'll talk to the animal, I'll use body language, and eventually it just gets that I mean no harm.

My husband, in the first year he got to know me, was frequently boggle-eyed when we walked past or through farming paddocks and he saw me interact with the occupants. "What are you doing near that huge thing?" and I'd laugh. I can no more ignore an animal than I could a stranger passing on a hike - I like to acknowledge others. And Brett said, and he still says, "When you go into a paddock, any paddock, pretty soon you are surrounded by a cloud of animals. They think you're fascinating." Well, I think they are!

I've always worked with animals on a mutual relationship basis, not a master-servant, human-lower being basis. I don't feel that I am special compared to a social animal of another species: I am an equal, and work from a side-by-side position, not an "I am above you" position. So how do I get an animal to do something I want it to do, some people have asked? Well, probably I am very persuasive! But, my animals want to work with me, just like I want to work with them. It's a symbiosis - a relationship of mutual advantage. I view training as a conversation, not a monologue.

I think animals pick that difference in approach with their "antennae"! And I think it's why I didn't have any unusual troubles with our first horse, or with the other horses since.

(Yegads, look at those front hooves, they're just scandalous, but it's so common in horse circles...)

And so, the summer turned into autumn back in 1981, and I continued to take part in group lessons at Reitschule Eurastetten on Mingo. The horse and I made progress and he was soon like any other riding school horse doing his arena work. My father and I alternated going on trails with groups, riding this horse. (My mother by then had given up riding due to the aggravation of a back injury, but continued to spend time with the horse.) Mingo was a bit spooky and very keen to move, but we had a pretty uneventful time of it, with one exception: A major group bolt that happened with a trail group. I wrote about it here:

This was a traumatic event for the whole group of riders, and especially the woman who ended up in hospital with a broken skull. I've never experienced anything remotely like that in the thirty-four years since. However, I initially lost a fair bit of confidence after that on trails, and it took me months to get it back. I couldn't stop hyperventillating and going into flight reaction myself at the sight of large trucks and the like for much longer still! Such is the burnt-in memory of a trauma, which the amygdala in the brain is programmed to produce.

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Last edited by SueC; 07-13-2015 at 08:54 AM.
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post #233 of 2633 Old 07-13-2015, 11:12 AM
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"This was a really scary experience, and I've never witnessed anything remotely like it again in the three and a half decades of riding since. All the horses were running like they were possessed and heading straight back to the barn by the shortest possible route, which included short-cutting through the middle of a pine forest, not along a trail but literally doing slalom through the trees."

"I've never experienced anything remotely like that in the thirty-four years since. However, I initially lost a fair bit of confidence after that on trails, and it took me months to get it back."

Custer had grown into manhood during the Civil War, when the frantic, all-or-nothing pace of the cavalry charge came to define his life. "The sense of power and audacity that possess the cavalier, the unity with his steed, both are perfect," remembered one Civil War veteran who attempted to describe what it was like to charge into battle.

"The horse is as wild as the man: with glaring eye-balls and red nostrils he rushes frantically forward at the very top of his speed, with huge bounds, as different from the rhythmic precision of the gallop as the sweep of the hurricane is from the rustle of the breeze. Horse and rider are drunk with excitement, feeling and seeing nothing but the cloud of dust, the scattered flying figures, conscious of only one mad desire to reach them, to smite, to smite, to smite!"

- "The Last Stand" by Nathaniel Philbrick, pgs 46-47 Underlining mine.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said...

Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrifying.
He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
he goes out to meet the weapons.
He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword.
Upon him rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says Aha!
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

Job, Chapter 39.

It could be the intervening 2600 years may have resulted in less warlike horses. I have a hard time imagining Bandit charging fierce into battle. Still, there are accounts I've read from the Civil War of horses who seemed to enjoy the excitement of battle. One that stuck in my mind would, in the years after the war, bite anyone wearing a blue suit.

I've often wondered what it would be like to be part of a charge involving 2-3,000 horses moving in mass! The US Cavalry often used horses with minimal training. The same book I quoted above gives several stories of individual horses bolting in blind panic, carrying their rider into danger or out of it. At least 2 horses bolted and carried their riders several miles from the rest of the soldiers, where they died. One did the same, but then circled back and his rider became the survivor of a 5-6 mile ride alone thru the enemy, only to arrive back and rejoin the formation when the US Cavalry was retreating.

I also came across an account of a charge made by 70 men. Luckily for them, it turned out the folk they were charging were friendly - because of the 70, 12 fell off their horses with 2 breaking their legs in the fall!

Group think in horses seems a lot like my fellow humans at times... Still, the account of the Civil War vet reminds me of what happens when a horse bolts with fear. Folks have told me I need "body control", and I've been known to advise people to "just stay on the horse" - but when horses are bolting in fear, there is nothing quite like it. It truly strikes me "as different from the rhythmic precision of the gallop as the sweep of the hurricane is from the rustle of the breeze." I could cheerfully go the rest of my life without ever riding another bolt of any level of intensity...and I never have experienced, and hope I never do, a group bolt!
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post #234 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 06:31 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you, bsms, for that fascinating material!

Originally Posted by bsms View Post
Group think in horses seems a lot like my fellow humans at times...

Still, the account of the Civil War vet reminds me of what happens when a horse bolts with fear. Folks have told me I need "body control", and I've been known to advise people to "just stay on the horse" - but when horses are bolting in fear, there is nothing quite like it. It truly strikes me "as different from the rhythmic precision of the gallop as the sweep of the hurricane is from the rustle of the breeze." I could cheerfully go the rest of my life without ever riding another bolt of any level of intensity...and I never have experienced, and hope I never do, a group bolt!
It's not fun, and probably the simplest way to avoid a group bolt is not to ride in a group! ...then it's just between you and your horse.

Actually, I do think all the solo riding I did in the Australian bush with various horses gave me an incredible immunity to group bolts when I did ride in a group. I never had to test it, but I've had horses rush blindly past me on the trail with my Arabian mare never altering from her trot, even though she loved to run and always wanted to lead. Also Sunsmart, in company, doesn't care a hoot what any other horse is doing, he will do his own thing.

I think if you are more bonded with your horse than your horse is to the other horses, that's also a good start... The riding school horses on that group bolt were strongly bonded to each other and mostly quite weakly if at all to their constantly changing riders...

And you know what I think about snaffles and bolting!

Also I wonder if the "body control" brigade have ever actually experienced a group bolt... Would love to TARDIS them straight into the middle of that one and see if it would chasten them any!
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post #235 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 06:41 AM Thread Starter
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Stabling and Turnout Arrangements and their Consequences

In the stables at Eurastetten, there was a mix of loose boxes and tie-in stands to accommodate the horses. The private horses were mostly in loose boxes, the riding school horses in tie-ins. The barn that housed the riding school horses had originally been a cow barn, and cows in barns traditionally were tied facing the wall. A trough ran along the wall for silage, beets, hay, etc, with a walkway to service it. Mucking out was done from the main accessway behind a row of tie-ins. Cattle were traditionally on grass turnout when weather permitted, and barns were mostly used in winter, poor weather and at milking time.

The cow barn had been partially converted to create loose boxes for horses. It also had some of the original loose boxes that had once been occupied by the draught horses that worked the land. Two short rows of stands remained, and the riding school horses occupied them. There were logs suspended by chains that separated the stands. The logs were attached flexibly near the troughs but could be pivoted from the rear. This design meant people didn't get crushed against the partitions if a cow leaned on them. Also, you could just grab the far end of the log and use it to move a cow sideways before entering the space – while standing well out of kicking range. After the barn conversion, this was also a handy way to move a horse over before you went in to groom it or collect it for work.

Our only photograph of Mingo in a tie-in stand at Eurastetten. Although there is no pictorial evidence, the horse's head was still attached! I am including this photo to give people unfamiliar with traditional European cow barns an idea of the construction and the restrictive nature of tie-in stalls. The mare in the loose box directly behind Mingo frequently had azoturia after her weekend-only trail rides.

The horses in Eurastetten were often on partial pasture turnout for an hour or two a day in good weather. The riding school horses got plenty of outdoors exercise with several sessions of arena lessons and trails during the day, and one rest day a week. The boarding horses had far less exercise, usually just an hour or two five days a week if they were lucky, and some were only ridden on weekends. It depended on how much time or inclination the owners had to attend to their horses. Some owners had arrangements for the school to also use their horses for trail outings or lessons. Colics were rife in private boarding horses with limited exercise, and I well remember one mare repeatedly struck with azoturia after her weekend-only exercise.

When Mingo came out of the quarantine box in the separate outbuilding a week or two after his arrival at the riding school, he went into a spare tie-in with the riding school horses. This was his spot when we bought him, and no loose boxes were available. It became a concern for us especially when his pasture turnout was suspended because he rough-housed too much with some of the other horses on the pasture. With his large proportion of racing blood, he had enormous amounts of energy and would want to run it off whenever at liberty, and because he was young, he wanted to play with his pasture mates, many of whom were older, well-exercised horses from more sedate breeds, and only interested in grazing. There was only one paddock available, so no alternative turnout. Mingo also, because of his chequered history and inexperience, could not be sent on extra trail rides with riding pupils. The only exercise he got was what we could give him.

A situation where a young, energetic horse is standing essentially motionless in a tie-in at least 20 hours a day is untenable. He had limited turnout on occasions when noone else was using the pasture, and would rocket around the perimeter, buck, pig-root, leap into the air, in short, do what young horses do to let off steam. We would turn him out for at least half an hour before riding him if the pasture was available. I might add that it wasn't great for the pasture that our horse was using it as a racetrack-cum-gymnasium. Sometimes we turned him out in the riding arena when nobody was using it. He would zoom around the arena at liberty and eventually jump the log fence around it out of sheer exuberance. We would then have to catch him before he waylaid a horse and rider. Catching him wasn't hard as he readily came up to us – sporting a comical, “Oh goody, you are here!” expression – but all these efforts were only band-aids. A solution had to be found.

Fast-forward to the present: I have four horses free-ranging on 4ha of paddocks at night at 58ha during the day. They are all racing breeds, and even though three of them are retired and over 20, they all rocket around on a regular basis. One of their favourite hobbies when they are on the 48ha space always starts with this “orchestra moment” where they stop grazing, look at each other, and then suddenly go pelting off in unison down the sand track behind the house. They make a screeching right-hand turn onto the forest track and gallop with abandon down to the western property boundary. They then either slowly return along the paddock fence, grazing as they go until they are back near the house, or they trot back immediately along the forest track, turn around, and have another communal run. Yesterday I counted four cycles of running in a half-hour period. I've had a bad cold and Sunsmart has been off work as a result, and is full of beans.

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post #236 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 06:45 AM Thread Starter
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Moving Mingo to Agistment in Einsbach

There were quite a few boarding barns in the rural area immediately surrounding Munich. Horse-riding is a popular hobby in Germany. Many barns had full jumping courses and some even had cross-country facilities. Other barns were more laid-back and offered an arena, limited jumping, and good trail access.

We went looking at a few of these places. What we wanted above anything was automatic day turnout and a loose box. There was a piggery near Einsbach that ran a small boarding facility as a sideline. One barn wing had ten large, modern loose boxes, another had six older, smaller loose boxes left over from the draught horse days. All the horses were on thick beds of straw, and there were several large grazing paddocks onto which horses were turned out all day by the barn owner, weather permitting. Also there were fenced earth turnouts near the forest just for running at liberty. A generous riding arena with optional obstacles was available, and trail access was excellent. It was very close to where we lived – only a ten minute car trip. One loose box had just become available.

Mingo and me on the open fields behind the Einsbach piggery in January 1982. The Autobahn was less than 300m away and we had nightmares about our highly-strung horse getting loose and running onto the barrierless six-lane road. Collisions between loose horses and Autobahn traffic were (and remain) common and horrific. Consequently, when taking a horse for a walk, I always led with the lead rope looped over the nose for extra security.

It was sad to have to leave the riding school, but the facilities at Einsbach were far better for our horse, and we moved him promptly that autumn. He transitioned very well to the new place and responded wonderfully to the all-day turnout with other horses. There were a few younger, playful horses and ponies with whom he romped around. Having lots of space to run all day instead of being cooped up in a barn really settled the horse. In good weather, we could now ride him straight from the paddock with no interim measures to let off his abundant energy.

My father and I were alternating riding the horse. Sometimes he would go and ride a trail while I explored the piggery and chatted with other boarders. When the horse returned from the trail, I would hop on and do an arena session. Other times I went on a trail with a group, and we rode in the surrounding fields and forests. Sometimes I did cavaletti and low obstacles with the horse.

My mother ruminated. One day she emerged from her newspaper and said, “There is a French Trotter mare for sale, near Daglfing. Good nature, very experienced horse, 12 years old, reasonable price, good riding home only, foal just weaned. Shall we go look? You could ride together instead of sharing.”

Looking back three decades later, this, more than anything else, would fundamentally change our lives.
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post #237 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 06:48 AM Thread Starter
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Dame du Buisson

After a long and promising phone conversation, the three of us packed ourselves into a car and drove to the outskirts of Munich. The Lichtingers operated a small trotting stud and racing stable near Daglfing. Trotters were routinely ridden as part of their training, and the Lichtingers had a share in a voluminous indoor arena in their training complex.

Maria Lichtinger was a tiny, sweet woman who loved her horses. She led us to the loose box housing the mare for sale. They had five foals out of this mare and, with the last one just weaned, needed the room. Mrs Lichtinger was tearful. She was so fond of this mare, who was a real sweetheart. If only they had more room. But the mare had had enough foals and needed a riding home now. She needed regular work and adventures.

Mrs Lichtinger opened the loosebox door. A large, leggy chestnut mare turned her head towards us. Kind eyes, narrow blaze down the centre of her face, long ears, big nostrils breathing at us in enquiry. She took a step towards us and sniffed me gently all over. She rubbed her top lip against the back of my hand. Mrs Lichtinger laughed. “This mare adores children. Maybe she thinks of them as foals. Young children can play right around her feet, and she takes care of them. She is always careful not to step on them and she can't get enough of children.” (This was, indeed, dead accurate, not just a romantic sales pitch. The mare had a magnificent disposition and was excellent around people, and extra solicitous and super-affectionate around children.)

The Lichtingers tacked up the mare and led her into the arena. They rode, we rode. The nearly 17hh mare towered over me. Once I was on her back, everything was suddenly ridiculously easy. Walk, working trot, medium trot, extended trot. Her trot was amazing, it was like she was gliding on oiled castors. I'd never experienced anything like that before. Canter on both leads. Halt. Arena figures. The large-framed mare turned through voltes with athleticism and practiced ease. Rein-back, how many steps do you want? It was extraordinary, and so effortless.

I loved our irrepressible, adventurous Mingo, and the challenge of riding this green horse who always felt like a rocket was waiting to go off under him, and we had done well together. I'd had fun, I had been scared out of my wits by that group bolt, I'd had to learn to think on my feet, and we were making good progress. He worked well in the arena, and over cavaletti, and low jumps (I was still learning technique and restricted myself to easy obstacles). You had to be one hundred percent present when riding him, this was not a horse suited to daydreaming!

And now this mare was so totally laid-back and Zen and instantly responsive. It was incredible to be riding so effortlessly the first time you were working with a horse. No riding school horse I'd been on had ever felt like this... they'd had too much to put up with to just glow like that.

In Australia, harness horses usually get a very rough saddle education, if any. In Europe it was completely different. This mare, who started out as a successful harness racing horse in France, had been ridden seriously in the arena for much of her life. Broodmares in stables like the Lichtingers' are exercised during at least the first six months of pregnancy, mostly under saddle. They do basic dressage, cavaletti and a little jumping, and they do trails. Young horse enthusiasts who have progressed at a riding school and are competent to ride independently not infrequently will exercise horses at racing and breeding stables. Because of the general competence of German ex-riding school riders at dressage, the standard of riding is high, and the horses become well educated.

Like this lovely, free-moving chestnut mare who breathed friendly breaths in your hair when you got off her back. I was smitten. My mother and father were smitten. The Lichtingers were smitten. She was only the first horse we has actually gone to look at once my mother championed the idea of getting a second horse. But, she was fabulous...

And so, Dame du Buisson came into our lives, and her doing so would cause us to shift continents in just another year, and to start a harness stable ourselves, and thirty-odd years later, I would be riding her great-grandson Sunsmart, who inherited her free-striding, oiled-castors trot, and hosting two of her retired grandget who have exactly her chestnut colouring and kind, super-friendly nature.

Dame du Buisson in Einsbach, Germany, January 1982
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post #238 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 07:07 AM Thread Starter
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Dame du Buisson in the forest turnout, enjoying her freedom, Einsbach, Germany, January 1982

Mingo kicking up his heels in the forest turnout, Einsbach, Germany, January 1982

Our horses enjoying the snow, Einsbach, Germany, January 1982

Mingo rolling in the snow, Einsbach, Germany, January 1982

More rolling in snow! Einsbach, Germany, January 1882

Dame du Buisson rolling in the snow, Einsbach, Germany, January 1981
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post #239 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 10:04 AM
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I love reading about your family's horses when you were younger, Sue. Keep the instalments coming!

Originally Posted by SueC View Post
More rolling in snow! Einsbach, Germany, January 1882
Gosh, it really snowed in winter for you. In England winters were never so harsh. Though you must be a bit older than I thought ..... perhaps European weather was harsher back in the C19.
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post #240 of 2633 Old 07-14-2015, 12:18 PM
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Sue, you're inspiring me to want to go through some dusty old boxes in my attic to find pictures of me riding as a kid. I don't think there are many, but there's one in particular that I can remember hanging on my bedroom door, with me wearing these horrendous black stonewashed jeans and huge puffy bangs (no helmet of course) tearing around on a friend's crazy little POA mare. I need to find that!

Your description of the tie stalls brought back vivid memories of one lesson barn I rode at briefly as a kid. Even my hazy memories of it make it out to be pretty run down and a sort of sad place (my parents knew nothing about horses and I think they would drop me in the driveway and leave me there until it was time to go home, but I can't imagine it's a place I'd want to go now!)

There were two barns, which very well may have been converted dairy barns. One was "up top" where the lesson horses were, with a breezeway connecting it to the indoor. All the horses there had box stalls.

But "down below," the owners had what I now know was a backyard breeding operation- there was one mean Arab stud in a corner box, and all the mares, at least when they didn't have foals on them, stood tied in narrow "standing stalls" virtually all day long. Maybe they got turnout sometimes, I don't know. And I can't imagine where they foaled out those mares or let foals run. It's actually sort of a sad memory thinking back to it. I just remember that kids were warned not to go in that barn because you could get kicked by the horses who were tied up, heads in, back ends out, with just a butt chain behind them. And the rumor amongst the teenage girls was that you should never go in there if it was "that time of the month" because it would make the stallion crazy
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