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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My previous journal was called "Why I Gotta Trot." It was getting insanely long, so I decided to begin a new one with a new phase in my horse life.

This is Hero in May of 2018 shortly after I first ended up with him. He had recently undergone a name change from Rascal to Hero.

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Hero was an off track TB who was raced at 5 several times, then retired. He ended up at a rescue, where he was rehomed three times and returned. My friend was told this was because he was still green (he was 9 years old by then), and no one had taken the time to work with him. Later I was to find out that one of the people who returned him to the rescue was a horse trainer.

My friend took him, hoping to give him some experience and then her beginner boyfriend would have a horse to ride. Unfortunately, Hero turned out to be too much horse for her boyfriend. I was the one who had put most of the riding on him in the five months she owned him, so she ended up giving him to me. I knew by then he had "issues," but had grown attached.

This is Hero more recently:
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Here is a timeline of how things have changed between when I first met him in October of 2017 until now.

Oct 26, 2017-Feb 22, 2018:

My friend adopts Rascal. We think of him as being a green horse. Her beginner boyfriend get tossed off right away a couple of times. I mostly ride him, keeping things calm for his new owner. At first Rascal seems fairly calm - overwhelmed, and somewhat shut down. When we begin taking him out more, he starts spooking more and begins to buck at times.

He cannot really pick up canter, which I chalk up to him being green. On the lunge he canters disunited. The vet does a check, does not find anything really wrong. He does not seem to like bits but finally we try an mullen mouth Kimberwicke, which he seems to prefer.

Feb 22, 2018-June 1 2018:

I begin to notice there is more than a green horse here. I suspect serious physical issues. I wonder about SI joint damage. He acts like he has been treated like a machine. He is tense when handled and defensive. On April 20, it is decided he will not be a good match for his beginner owner. I take over ownership, knowing there may be some physical problems as well as behavioral ones, but I have grown attached. He begins to get better at understanding cues and after lots of rides responds well, although he still is spooky and bucks a lot.

June 1, 2018-August 28th, 2018:

A pattern is emerging. I notice that I can predict when he will buck, hop or kick out. He has issues especially in deep footing and going down hills. From online information, I decide he may have locking stifles. Trimming his hind hooves based on that idea seems to help a bit. The vet diagnoses him on July 18 with Intermittent Upward Fixation of Patellas. He is started on Equioxx. By the end of July, he is having rides with less bucking and even sometimes no bucking.

August 28th, 2018-Nov 21, 2018:

The trial of Equioxx is over. More riding and rehab including massage and stretching. At times he seems better, but has serious toe wear on hinds even though using boots for riding. Gradually seems to lose strength again in hind end despite exercise.

Nov 21st, 2018- March 24, 2019:

Restarted on Equioxx. I see Hero gallop for the first time on the lunge line. Suddenly, he begins using his hind end more and starts rearing under saddle. Apparently he would always have liked to rear, but was not strong enough. On Dec. 8th he gets stifles injected. By the end of December he does not seem to mind being brushed all over with a soft brush, his canter is getting stronger and there is less bucking.

Hero continues to improve and have better and better days. By spring he seems to push off with hinds in the trot with some spring and less toe drag. On the 24th of March I note in my journal “Best Ride Ever.”

March 24, 2019-Jan 2020: Many good rides. Now it seems any residual bucking and behavioral issues relate to learned behavior rather than reaction to pain. If upset or nervous, he will throw in a buck or hop. Now they are basically his “spook.” On occasion if the footing is bad or we slip on a hill, I can tell his stifles do slip and he gives a buck or kick.
By July I feel I know Hero and his reactions, and can give a reprimand if he gets too worked up, and he will settle things down again. He begins to calm down very fast, within seconds after getting upset.

Jan 2020- Aug 2020: Expressiveness has come down in intensity. He does not feel the need to displace nerves onto the handler with snapping teeth or barging, and if I brush too hard or do something he dislikes, he does not feel he has to pin his ears, glare or show over the top body language. I can tell we are communicating much better and that he has crossed another threshold of trust, really believing it is safe to go out with me unless something very scary shows up.

August 2020- present: Continuing to build a relationship, it is starting to feel like we are real partners. I’ve learned that Hero is more fearful when out alone than I realized, similar to how Amore used to be. Since he tends to stop and look more often than prance and snort, I thought he was braver than he really was. In a new environment it is easier to see. This year I am working on gradually improving on his bravery with frequent rides around a 2.5 mile route by himself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
If you follow this journal you will also often hear about my other horse, Amore.

Amore is my Arabian mare. She has been retired for several years now due to back arthritis, and will turn 30 years old in several months. She has Cushing's disease, which is being treated with Prascend and she is doing very well. She is a bit tottery, and far quieter than she used to be, due to her age. Amore remains very sweet, loves to walk down the road to find good grass, hangs out with Hero and likes being scratched all over.

There is an ebook on Amazon about Amore called "Round Pen, Square Horse." I wrote it to chronicle my experiences training my first horse, who turned out to be a very tricky one. When I bought Amore as an untrained adult horse, she was extremely reactive and spooky. She taught me thousands of things about horses, and helped build the foundation that has helped me work with other difficult horses.


She is still a beauty in her old age, and never had a mean bone in her body - towards humans. She has always detested small animals that came into her space and would try to maim or kill them.
 

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Yay! I'm so glad you started a new journal!
I started reading your old journal and still do whenever I'm bored/have time, but I've only gotten to like page 6. I will read this whole one though! I'm so excited! You have made so much progress with Hero! He sounds amazing!
Also, do you speak some Spanish? Cause Amore in Spanish, is love. You probably knew that though...lol!
 

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I don't know how good the rest of you are at trimming hooves, but I'm so good I can do two horses in 28 seconds.
It helps to let them eat, makes it go faster.
Haha nice. I’m not that good, I can do it in an emergency but then I’d still have to call the farrier back to neaten it up
 

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I don't know how good the rest of you are at trimming hooves, but I'm so good I can do two horses in 28 seconds.
It helps to let them eat, makes it go faster.
LOL. I can do two horses in 2.8 hours. Not quite that bad, but almost. But my guys are learning patience at least.
 

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Subbing. Finally. Not gonna lie your other thread was intimidating to scroll through on a mobile (especially when it sometimes would go back to the top or where I started!) :p I love the timeline thank you for doing that for those of us needing it xD Beautiful pictures. Your previous thread and this one already is an inspiration to not give up when the rough days come by.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks, glad to hear moving the journal will make it easier.

Today was a bit of a "perfect storm." I'm continuing to push out Hero's comfort zone with progressively longer ridden forays into the unknown.

When I arrived at the barn, I kept hearing a high pitched squeal. At first I thought it might be an elk, but then thought someone might be weaning a foal.

The barn owner drove by and stopped to say hello. Both she and her husband often scold/tease me about working too hard. They want me to know they don't expect me to keep the manure picked up on all the field, none of the other boarders clean more than just the sheds, etc.

I asked if someone was weaning a foal. Apparently an 8 month old Mustang colt just moved in to one of the lower corrals. He was hand-raised after his dam died, and just adopted by (I'm sure you can guess...) someone who has never had a horse before! Of course. Well, I told the barn owner I was available if they needed help. Of course I am imagining a new horse person with @Knave's little Queen. Bottle fed no less.

Walking Hero down the road was fine. We passed by the colt who was quiet for the moment. Hero stopped to stare at the little guy who seemed very tiny. We pushed a little farther into new territory, turning around at a field of (friendly? Squealy) horses. Hero displayed himself from all angles, as he does, showing how buff he is. I don't mention to him that the winter fluff does not appear to be all muscle this year.

Heading back up the road, a UPS truck sat idling. Dark was settling down and it was a scene from Hero's worst nightmare. The monster growled and no less than ten lights (monster eyes) pierced toward us through the night.

It was impossible to ride past. The monster held Hero mesmerized in its gaze. I got off and led Hero. He was in a state of shock. Instead of turning around, the monster came roaring past us.

Foolishly, I remounted. Hero thought trotting might help. For some reason I thought it might too. We caught a glimpse of the truck in the far distance and Hero dropped back to a walk.

At this critical juncture, baby colt started crying again. Amore up the hill decided baby was crying for her and came tearing out of her shed hollering. I say holler because Amore has a very deep and loud voice. I've thought she could work at a 1 (900) number for horses. Amore's outburst sent Mocha, the next horse over galloping around his field.

Hero lost his grip and spooked hard; left, right, up, sideways. I was riding a big hump. The hump stopped for a split second and I scrambled off. Hero blew a snort to raise the dead. I quickly walked him up toward Amore, who was still hollering and running. The UPS truck rattled back down the road.

Two minutes later everyone suddenly stopped hollering, squealing and running. Hero lipped at me and lowered his head, and I proceeded to walk him the rest of the planned route. A peaceful calm dropped down around us, and we moseyed along, then back to the field. Within moments it was all quiet except for the chewing of hay, creaking frogs, rats scrabbling in the rafters and the plop-plopping of manure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'm working on a book about training and working with problem horses. Well, this is my idea of fun.

Since a book doesn't allow for discussion, I want to get thoughts on some opinions I have.
I've talked about how people commonly use the term "holes" in the training of a horse. It is something I dislike, because I believe when I first started working with horses it led me astray. I'm not saying someone should go out and train a horse without experience or knowledge. If you don't know how to handle a horse or ride, you will have no idea what you want the horse to learn how to do. If you don't have a good knowledge of horse body language and communication, the horse will end up frustrated.

But I think talking about training holes implies there is a single way to train a horse, or certain things that all horses must learn. Horse training has always fascinated me, and I've always been a sort of "rail monkey." Everywhere I've been, if someone is training a horse or giving a lesson, I'm drawn to the rail where I'll stand for long periods of time, just observing. I've had the advantage of being at a few barns where various trainers worked horses. Plus I've known quite a few people who trained their own horses.

These experiences have given me the opinion that there are very many ways to train horses. I think if a person assesses that a horse has holes in their training, it is because the horse does not know how to do something that they would expect a horse to know in their style of handling or riding. But does that necessarily mean their style is "the" way or the correct way? What I dislike is the impression that leaving out teaching a horse something that you believe they should know is what leads to problem horses. But I've met a lot of very well behaved horses that were trained in very eccentric ways.

An example is a friend of mine who has trained about a dozen horses. When I've ridden with her, she has had to explain to me how her horses are ridden. She rides on a loose rein, and does not contact the bit. Her horses respond to rein cues, meaning when you pick up a rein, that is the signal for turning rather than bit pressure or neck pressure. She also does not put the leg on the horse below the knee, and the horses move through gaits by voice commands. They turn when you pick up a rein and change the weight and/or squeeze with your upper thigh. These horses don't shorten or lengthen gaits, and they never gallop. But when you say walk, trot or canter, they will immediately transition into that gait either up or down, and will stay at a consistent rhythm in that gait until you say otherwise. The horses do not know how to move away from your lower leg, but they turn fairly sharply and easily when you pick up a rein, and if you pick it up higher they turn faster and sharper. The horses can lead, tie, be groomed, bathed, trailered, all the usual stuff.

So do these horses have holes in their training? They certainly don't know how to move their shoulders or hindquarters away from your leg. They wouldn't appreciate it if you pulled on the bit or tried to push them forward by squeezing your calves. Yet they are very good citizens, not problem horses, and all the ones my friend has had so far she's kept until they died. I believe if she had to rehome a horse, they would be confused by other riders but would easily learn a new system.

Another trainer I know uses bitting rigs to train the horses to always carry themselves with their head and neck in a certain posture, which she adjusts based on the aesthetics of the horse's conformation. These are show horses. They learn to always move into soft bit pressure, but to pull their head back with muscle tension so the pressure remains minimal. They are ridden with hands holding the head at the proper level for the horse, and if the horse moves out of the right position, small jerking motions on the bit signal the horse to pull back farther and then the horse is let slowly back out to the correct position.

The horses learn how to turn with both direct and indirect rein cues applied subtly at the same time, along with supporting leg and weight cues. They know how to lengthen and shorten gaits, do sharp transitions, make nice circles and reverse. They will tolerate having the insides of their ears shaved, power tools used on their hooves, and hot shoeing.

Do these horses have holes in their training? They win at horse shows. If you take them out on a trail and end up in a situation where they are overly nervous, if you apply more bit pressure they will pull their heads back as they've been taught, until they can't see where they are going. Since they are used to working through bitting rigs and such, they will sometimes just keep pushing through the pressure if they get confused or frightened. They are less able to do a sudden turn in an emergency from a direct rein because their turns in the ring are more anticipated and are supposed to look smooth.

Another friend bought a horse, and we put a snaffle in and took her on a ride. She just plowed through the bit and turned awkwardly through her neck. We thought perhaps she did not have a lot of training. Except there was a photo of her online doing reining maneuvers. We put a curb bit on her and put her in the arena, where she would gallop down a line and slide to a stop if you shifted your weight back, lean back and spin if you put the rein against her neck, and lope in perfect circles.
So my opinion is that you can teach a horse anything you like. You can teach them to move off your leg or not, to direct rein, neck rein, to accept bit pressure and move into it or avoid it completely. Well trained means that the horse does what the person using him daily needs him to do. Missing certain things in training does not make horses with problems. It can be a problem if you need a horse to move away from bit pressure and they don't know how to do it. But they still may be well trained in other things, and a well adjusted good citizen.

I've known horses that were only used under saddle and did not have any groundwork done at all. The owner would catch the horse, throw a saddle on and ride. The horse know how to lead, but probably hadn't been tied in years. This was on many acres of land and the owner just ground tied in the open when handling the horse. Still a good citizen, an easy to ride horse.

Many people never lunge their horses, never teach them to sidepass or turn on the haunches or forehand.
If you skip a necessary step with a horse, you will not be able to use the horse. For example, if you skip teaching the horse to wear a saddle, you will not be able to ride with a saddle. So how can a horse even have holes in their training, if the necessary steps necessarily build on one another? Those are thoughts for the day.
 

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I suppose to a certain extent that you are right. Some "holes" are only holes if they affect the discipline you ride. If I am a trailer rider it's not a "hole" that my horse can't piaffe. But there are other holes that are just holes, and I don't think you can argue otherwise:
  1. Horse can't lead
  2. Horse can't be tied
  3. Horse can't trailer
  4. Horse doesn't pick up feet for picking
  5. Horse can't handle the vet or farrier
  6. Horse doesn't stand still at mounting block
OK fine, you can be like, well, a horse doesn't have to lead because I trained it to just follow me; or a horse doesn't need to be tied because I will always hold it; or I don't care if my horse doesn't stand still at the mounting block because I ground mount or I just like to jump on real fast or whatever. But IMO those are basic things that every horse should just be able to do.

You are a much more experienced person than I am, so obviously feel free to disregard. But I do think they are holes. Maybe I'd even go further, like, horse can't canter with a rider. Again, maybe you will never canter so you don't care, but that seems like a hole to me. Horse can't canter both leads. If you're going to be only trail riding maybe that doesn't matter?

And then I suppose there are things that some people consider holes that most wouldn't. I would consider it a hole to have a horse that didn't come when called. Horses being horses, of course they won't always come when called, but a horse should know my voice and come most of the time. I know a lot of people who have had horses a lot longer than I have, and they still go out to the pasture and catch their horse every time; I have to admit I don't understand why they do it. Maybe some horses just will never come? Man, there's nothing like calling your horses and having them come cantering up to you! Well, not so much when the ground is muddy and you're worried maybe they can't stop in time LOL.

I'll stop talking now...

ETA: Actually, no I won't stop talking. I taught my chickens to come when called. If I can teach chickens to come when called, surely most people can teach their horse to come when called. I really don't understand why they don't.
 

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Mia took years before she'd stand still when tied. But you could do anything with her with the lead rope tucked into your back pocket. Hole? To someone who valued tying, yes. I didn't give a rat's rear and who is someone else to tell me it is bad?

After 12 years, I'm working on getting my horses ready to trailer. They have all trailered at some point in the past, but I didn't (and still don't) have a good trailer, nor a truck rated to haul a 2-horse trailer (with horses). If I had a 3 horse stock trailer, I think all three would be fine. My trailer, however, is short enough that Bandit can reach food at the very far edge without bringing his hind feet inside...so I'm a bit stymied at the moment.


I guess I'd call that a hole, but I'm pretty sure Bandit just thinks I need to get a bigger trailer....


A friend of mine bought and trained horses for 50 years. People who had one told me they were awesome horses. Desert trail horses. Only bit ever put in their mouths' was a solid, low port curb:

People rode them the rest of their lives, off trail in the Sonoran Desert, using that bit alone. Hole? Why? Horses and riders were happy. I'm told they were "Go anywhere, Do anything horses" - IF YOU RODE IN THE DESERT. Of course, they'd suck at a Dressage test. Unless someone took the time to teach them the skills for that.

From my perspective, Bandit is a horse I trust to ride without a helmet. He sometimes likes some light contact but would resent it if it was all the time. He's sensible and sane. Like Mia, he cannot sidepass in an arena. Like her, if there is a reason to do it, he'll do it at a tiny nudge. Seems to me what is important is that he likes people and is pretty willing to do things they ask. As long as a different rider didn't bully him, he'd take that cooperation ethic with him into dressage training, or polo training, or jump training, or reining.

PS: I stink at basketball and can't stay upright on ice skates. I have "holes" in my athletic training. I'm just....devastated.🤣

PSS: My horses don't come when called. They've trained me to go to them....
 

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Not too long after we got Moonshine, she was living on a 150-acre ranch, maybe 200 acres. It had a creek that was lined with trees and another big pasture behind that, a big mesquite thicket, a small forest, and lots of small hills. We had gone to meet the vet out there. It took us over an hour, in 100+ temperatures, to find her, and that was with us split up. At that time, she would actively run away from people, I guess because she had some bad associations. I had brought a big bottle of water that was mostly frozen solid ice, and by the end of that hour the water had all melted and been drunk, and I was feeling a little light-headed. I said, Never Again. I will train this horse to come when I call, so I did.

But I don't want to hijack this thread. Maybe I'll start my own, asking about it. Who has their horses come when called and who doesn't?
 

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All my life, my horses came when I called them. I felt like @ACinATX , if the horse didn't come when called, then that was VERY BAD. But then we moved to 40 acres of lush grass, and they didn't come when called. When my husband and I got older and keeping cows and mending fences and mowing pasture was too hard, we moved to a smaller 10 acre place. My horses sometimes do come when called, when they feel like it. In the spring, when the grass is lovely, they won't even come up to eat. I have to go down with a halter to bring them up for meals. So, it just goes to show. Ya live and learn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I suppose to a certain extent that you are right. Some "holes" are only holes if they affect the discipline you ride. If I am a trailer rider it's not a "hole" that my horse can't piaffe. But there are other holes that are just holes, and I don't think you can argue otherwise:
  1. Horse can't lead
  2. Horse can't be tied
  3. Horse can't trailer
  4. Horse doesn't pick up feet for picking
  5. Horse can't handle the vet or farrier
  6. Horse doesn't stand still at mounting block
OK fine, you can be like, well, a horse doesn't have to lead because I trained it to just follow me; or a horse doesn't need to be tied because I will always hold it; or I don't care if my horse doesn't stand still at the mounting block because I ground mount or I just like to jump on real fast or whatever. But IMO those are basic things that every horse should just be able to do.

You are a much more experienced person than I am, so obviously feel free to disregard. But I do think they are holes. Maybe I'd even go further, like, horse can't canter with a rider. Again, maybe you will never canter so you don't care, but that seems like a hole to me. Horse can't canter both leads. If you're going to be only trail riding maybe that doesn't matter?

And then I suppose there are things that some people consider holes that most wouldn't. I would consider it a hole to have a horse that didn't come when called. Horses being horses, of course they won't always come when called, but a horse should know my voice and come most of the time. I know a lot of people who have had horses a lot longer than I have, and they still go out to the pasture and catch their horse every time; I have to admit I don't understand why they do it. Maybe some horses just will never come? Man, there's nothing like calling your horses and having them come cantering up to you! Well, not so much when the ground is muddy and you're worried maybe they can't stop in time LOL.

I'll stop talking now...

ETA: Actually, no I won't stop talking. I taught my chickens to come when called. If I can teach chickens to come when called, surely most people can teach their horse to come when called. I really don't understand why they don't.
@ACinATX: I really like discussing things, so thank you for your comments. No worries about derailing the thread, it rambles where it will. I could call it "Down the Rabbit Hole of Horses."

I should clarify, and that's one reason why comments help me. I think it's great for everyone to have things they think their horses should know how to do. In my mind, the horse does not have a hole, but has not been trained in that area. So what you are saying is that you believe horses should know some basic things, and I agree, although I will say that does vary depending on the individual use of the horse.

What I am debating is the idea I've heard many times that mysterious "holes" in the training are the reason why a horse is behaving a certain way. I do not believe that even if your horse has not learned any of the important things you listed, that this in any way correlates to other behaviors. So for example, if a horse is spooky and jiggy under saddle, a person will look at the horse and say he has holes in his training, so he needs to be brought back into an arena and restarted from scratch. The prevalent idea is that if a step is missed, the horse will not be a good citizen. My point is that a horse can be solid in one area of training without needing other things to be in place first. A horse may be able to turn on a dime with the lightest cue from your leg, but not respond well to the bit. These things are not a ladder. The horse learns each one in turn.

If @bsms' horses do not know how to load into a trailer, that does not mean they do not lead well or respond well to bit cues.
I like the list, but was laughing to myself about the horse needing to stand still for mounting. I've trained and untrained this skill to horses. It used to be on my basic skills list, so I'd work on it with the horse. Then, because I don't actually like to have a horse stand and wait before taking off, in practice I quickly train the horse a different way. The way my horses are trained is that they stand still until the moment my seat is in the saddle, and then immediately walk off.

It is very nice to have horses come when called. Many people train their horses to not come when called, by only catching the horse for work and not giving enough rewards. Other people don't train the horses to come just because they are in a small enough area and they don't need them to. My horses come when called, but sometimes they come in veeerrrryyy slowly so I go get them instead. If I do this, then they begin to expect to be waited on like that. So I untrain it if I'm not careful. Halla very rarely came when called. Since she came to me as a horse that could not be caught, and could not even be tricked into getting caught, it was huge progress for her to eventually learn to stand and wait for me to catch her. Even then, about once a year or so she would have a day where she'd revert back to wanting to run away again for a bit. She didn't recover enough psychologically to convince herself to come to a handler, and I think a tiny part of her still wondered if it something bad would happen. But sometimes she would come if Amore or other horses decided to gallop in and she got caught up in the mood.
 

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Wow. I totally agree with all of that! Everything you've said so far! I always thought that people referring to "holes" in training was an odd thing. I really liked what @bsms said...
PS: I stink at basketball and can't stay upright on ice skates. I have "holes" in my athletic training. I'm just....devastated.🤣
I totally agree! I'm not bendy so I would suck at ballet, does that mean I have a "hole"? No, it just means I can work hard, and lift heavy things unlike some people. That doesn't mean those people that can't lift things have "holes". What are we comparing those problem horses to? What is the perfect horse? What does a horse with no "holes" look like? Nothing. They don't exist. Every horse has some sort of problem, or issue. And while some people may call those "holes", the owners may just say they never took the time to teach them!
Back to my example, some people may say I have a "hole" because I can't stretch, when in reality, I just haven't taken the time to "train" myself to be bendy!

@gottatrot, you need to tell me when you publish this book and where I can find it, because I need to read it! Lol!
 
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