Tag Archives: happiness

Fraggle Friday: Stella Update, 7 Months Post Surgery

It’s been just over 7 months since I made the decision for Stella to have back surgery. Am I glad I made the decision I did? Absolutely. While the fact that she most likely has a brain tumor is devastating, I have to say she had an incredible summer swimming and getting out and about. And while she has slowed down a bit with the colder weather, she still seems no worse for wear. Now, remember, she’s 15 years old. So she spends her time doing a lot of this:

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She rarely cuddles with Siri so this was actually pretty magical

But when she is awake, she is eating well, eager to go for walks and when we get to the barn, one of her favorite places, she runs around like a banshee

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Yay walks!

Obviously, every day with her is a treasure, especially since I am not positive we will have a lot more of them.

But for now, I’m excited to see report that she is doing great and seems to be enjoying life to its fullest. Just like we all should be!

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One of my dogs has no shame in front of our foster dog…

 

 

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Fraggle Friday: Besties

Siri is one of those dogs who really, really, likes other dogs, but she is so submissive that sometimes dogs aren’t so nice to her. But, when she finds a dog who doesn’t care about pack order, they immediately become friends. And if they want to play like crazy? Even better!

Lucky for Siri, one of my regular pet sitting gigs is for a dog who fits the bill perfectly. Emmett is about 3 years old, and a Husky who loves EVERYONE. He’s from the humane society I work at, and he has more energy than any dog I have ever met.

But that’s ok, because he and Siri play and play and play.

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This is actually two very happy dogs playing….

And when they aren’t playing, he’s bounding through fields at sunset

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Honestly, he really never stops moving. Unless I ask him to pose for pictures.

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Meanwhile, Siri, who just can’t keep up with him, happily poses for a photo or two.

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PC Nate Liles

When they are home, they insist on laying together. Touching. Always touching.

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It’s fun to see Siri play so hard and have positive interactions with another dog. But as much as I love having Emmett around, I think Stella and I  are both always a bit relieved when he goes home and our house is nice and quiet again.

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Constructing a Plan

In one week, June will be back home. I’m feeling so much better, and while not 100% better, I feel ready for baby horse again.

I’ve been trying to figure out my plan for her once she returns. My guess is she will have enjoyed her break, but be ready to get back into work.

Please be ready for this June

But before we get back to where we left off, I want to make sure she is fit enough for it. Ideally, lots of long walks in the hills to build up fitness. But taking June on trail rides isn’t that easy.

But yesterday gave me what I hope is a brilliant idea. See, I spent yesterday on a trail ride.

I got to ride the adorable Smokey, and there were about 12 horses on this trail ride. I was thankful to have such a solid trail horse.

But, my great idea came to me before the trail ride even started.

I trailered Smokey and Eleanor, my friend Meg’s adorable draft cross, to meet the group. They were both perfect angels in my trailer and it was so fun to be able to trailer horses again!

I had to pony Eleanor up to the group so Sarah could ride her and Smokey was an absolute rock star letting me pony Smokey off of her.

Hmm. My wheels started turning… Maybe Smokey wouldn’t mind if I ponied a certain grey pony off of her.

So, I ran the idea by Meg and she had a better idea. What if we bring both Smokey and Eleanor and see if either would let June be ponied? And then I thought of another great idea. What if we bring Georgie and Eleanor and see if either of THEM would allow June to be ponied off of them? Or, the first time try Smokey and Eleanor and next time Georgie and whomever?

I mean, my point is… I have options! And I get to go on trail rides with a friend and great horses. So, win/win/win, right?

Anyhow, now I am even MORE excited for June to come home!

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Remembering Why I Ride

With June on vacation, and me still healing, I figured there wouldn’t be much interesting content to write about. But, since I’m feeling better, I’ve picked up two weekly rides. One on Georgie, and one on Tommy. They’re both different rides (Tommy is an Intermediate eventer who I am just getting conditioning rides on), but I’ve come to enjoy them both a lot.

Today it was 60 degrees out and sunny with no wind when I showed up to ride Georgie. I realized it was the perfect day to ride her out in the jump field. I’m riding Georgie partially for me- so I have something to ride until June returns, but also partially for Georgie. She’s acquired some “I’m ridden by a junior and asked nothing” habits that could probably be schooled a bit.

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Georgie when she realized we were headed away from the arenas and out to the field

So, my plan for today was to work on half halts and not letting her run through turns. We worked on this for a bit. I would execute an S turn and not let her run through the change of direction at the trot. It went pretty well and she began to listen to my aids and do what was being asked.

But, instead of drilling it into her, I decided that since it was so beautiful out, we should probably just enjoy being outside.

I walked Georgie to the edge of the field and her ears flew forward. She knew what was coming. I gently put my leg on and said “canter.”

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The moment she realized half halts and S turns were a thing of the past

And there we were, cantering along the field, on a crisp fall day, in the sunshine. I remembered why I loved this horse.

I love her because I feel safe. I love her because I can canter and just enjoy it. No spooking. No antics. Just wind in her mane and my face. She could go as fast as she wanted and it would be fine. She wasn’t going to run away with me. I was safe, happy, and enjoying everything horseback riding should be.

In my post ride recap I told Sarah what a good time I had, and how nice it was to gallop on my #1 mare. But then couldn’t help myself and launched into how Georgie’s canter is like it was the first day I ever rode her, and how I saw her shorten, shorten, shorten to the jump at the schooling show this weekend, and how a half halt takes a lot of work on her again. She clearly isn’t the mare she was when I stopped riding her, after years of work together.

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I’ve always loved galloping on her

And after I said it, I got upset with myself. Because, really, who cares? She is still the honest horse with so much heart that I fell in love with. Who cares if she isn’t prelim ready? Who cares if she carts a junior around safely but doesn’t look fancy? She is having a good time, and she deserves it.

And those moments where I get to gallop her along the fields in the crisp autumn sunshine? All I need to care about is how lucky I am to still be able to do that.

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Fraggle Friday: Fall Hikes

Let’s be honest. I don’t live in Idaho because it is convenient to get…anywhere. I live here because it looks like this out my back door.

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We had one of the most beautiful September’s in memory and I made it my mission to get out on some hikes.

It’s a bit tougher to just get out and go these days. I need to find someone to let Stella out mid day, as most of these hikes take all day. But once I have her needs covered, I allow myself to just get out there and enjoy it.

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If baby monkey is happy, I’m happy

Because, there is a lot to enjoy

Alpine lakes are probably my most favorite. (And Siri’s too!) The color of the water is unbelievable and it is so quiet and stunning

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This hike was an 11 miler. But it was well worth having tired legs the next day.

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And one of the most iconic hikes in our area takes us to a forest service cabin way out in the mountains.

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Siri leading the way

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On the roof someone painted “The Higher You Get,The Higher You Get.”

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Sadly you can see the smoke is making things hazy. But it’s still pretty

So, Siri and I, and friends, got out there. And I am so glad we did! Every once in a while I appreciate a reminder as to why I love it here so much.

 

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June’s First Cross Country Schooling

It’s a funny thing, prepping to school cross country on your own horse after not having done so for way too long. I was convinced I would forget something, and put my safety vests in the car the night before just to make sure I didn’t forget them. Then there was the task of deciding what June needed to wear. I haven’t bought much for her, so was hopeful Georgie’s xc boots would fit her (they did!) and that she would be fine in her D ring snaffle (she was!). Once I checked and double checked that we had everything, the excitement was palpable.

We went to school with Sarah and Rapid, which I appreciated, as I wasn’t sure we were ready for a group environment yet. Keep in mind, we’ve cantered in the open twice? Three times? And she has never done the “go do something then come and stand here for a while” routine, which is what you do with groups. Plus, I had no idea what she would think of all the jumps, and all the open space, and I really just needed to see who this horse was when put to work in a new environment doing new things.

I started with lunging her (duh) and she was so calm and relaxed we quickly moved to jumping over some obstacles. She handled these incredibly well. Really didn’t look at anything, even as we progressed from logs to a “picnic” table,  red branch looking log thing, A frame, hanging logs, etc.  Again, she was being so good, I hopped on her and we got to work under saddle.

The goal for the day was to build confidence, but also for me to get a glimpse of what she might be like on cross country. Who knew if she would even want to do this, and one thing I must have, is a horse who is willing to get from one side of the fence to the other, safely.

We started by trotting and cantering around the field. She didn’t get spooky or weird as we trotted and cantered away from Rapid, into the shadows, and up and down a teeny hill. In fact, she kind of liked the exploring, and she had her ears forward, ready for what was next.

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Just taking in the sights…

I continue to be in love with this horse’s canter. I have never had a horse with an uphill canter, nor did I ever put much thought into why it was important. But then, when I rode Rapid for the first time, I was like “Woah. This is like a totally different experience.” The best part is that you just feel the power from the back end surge forward and instead of falling down they come up. Have you ever driven a sports car? Hit the gas and felt the front of the car lift as the back powers it forward? It’s like that. It’s amazing. Ever since I rode Rapid’s canter, I knew I wanted an uphill horse. And thank God, June does not disappoint. She isn’t strong enough to keep that canter for too long, but it’s there, and it’s going to make things so much easier moving forward.

From there we moved on to trotting over logs. Super simple, super FUN. Our goal was to see if we could get June to land in the canter. No problem. She was eager to do so. She was bold, honest, and everything I would want her to be for her first outing!

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wheeeee

Now, don’t be fooled. I’m making this sound easy and perfect. It wasn’t. I was thinking “steer, steer, leg on, steer, SUPPORT,SUPPORT, steer” the entire way to the jump. June was being honest and brave, but it didn’t mean I just sat there and hoped it would happen. It was a lot of work, a lot of figuring out what works best, but in the end, it honestly went great and I think both of us had a good time!

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Love everything about this!

Since I didn’t want to over jump her on her first outing, we headed over to the water to see how she would be with that. Sarah was going to school Rapid, so June and I would have a little break and she could just check things out. I made the mistake of hopping off of her, so I could film Sarah. And I say mistake, because June thought me getting off and standing with her for 20 minutes meant we were done. She wasn’t really excited when I got back on her. She got tight in her back and a little sour. So, I hopped off, lunged for a few minutes, asked her to lunge through the water (which she did) and got back on. She  without hesitation walked into the water and walked around.

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But I never got that relaxed, easygoing, horse back. She continued to be tight in her back and sometimes refused to go forward in the water. I wouldn’t give her her head, as I didn’t want her to buck, so the entire experience wasn’t as low key as I was hoping. I got a little stiff, she got a little stiff, and I expected it to go south. It didn’t. It went ok. In fact, in looking at the videos, I think she was less likely to buck than I thought. I think she was just figuring out the splashing, she wanted to drink (which she later did), and she didn’t love the feeling of wet boots in the water.  At one point she just started pawing and pawing and pawing in the water and would NOT move. I was legit scared she was going to lay down and almost hopped off, but Sarah was like “Nope. Stay on.” And she grabbed June by the bridle and pulled her out of the water. Then she looked at me and said “THAT was being a pony.” Meaning, she was just being a brat. So, the good news is, she isn’t scared of the water. She didn’t buck me off. We need to work on me being confident but smart when she pulls these shenanigans. Actually using my dressage whip to get her moving forward. I knew from the get go she was going to test me. Now I need to have the answers.

We walked back to the trailer on a loose rein and all in all I’d say it was a great experience. I’m so excited to get back out there with her!

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Fraggle Friday: Stella Milestones

Today marks two months from Stella’s first seizure.

When that seizure happened, I hoped I had one month, prayed for two months, with her. I heard brain tumors grew quickly, and 1-2 months was a reasonable prediction for how long she would have.

Stella had back surgery on April 10th. On that day I hoped she would make it through surgery and regain some mobility. I hoped she could walk on her own again. I never expected her to walk up stairs or run. At 14 years old, I kept my expectations in check for what this dog would be able to do.

But apparently I forgot it was Stella who had back surgery and a brain tumor. Stella, the dog who I joked, if she were a human, she would be a multi sport Olympian. This is not a dog who is going to sit around and let anything stop her.

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This photo was taken 7/13. Clearly she can run…. PC:Nate Liles

And, so, a summer of adventures began. And, because it was summer, our adventures have involved a LOT of time in the water.

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Amazing weekend trip to Stanley, Idaho. Stella hadn’t been in the water yet this summer, and I worried she would have trouble. She didn’t.

On this trip to Stanley, Stella realized she felt GOOD. She took off down a trail thinking that’s the way we were going. Bring that she is basically deaf, and totally independent, I ended up running after her down the trail for 5 minutes when it became clear she was not coming back to me.

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She’s still one of the strongest swimmers. Siri does her best to keep up

She still loves to play fetch, although sometimes she can’t actually see the stick once I’ve thrown it into the water…

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Ready to fetch!

And to be honest, some days are better for her than others. Yesterday she just wanted to sleep. It’s been hot and smokey so I pretty much feel the same way. I’ve stopped thinking “is this your last day?” every single day, and instead am just enjoying every single day we have together.

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Siri is really good at convincing Stella to cuddle

It’s been an incredibly fun summer with her, and I am so thankful I get to continue having her in my life!

 

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The Georgie Predicament

To catch you all up, Georgie went to her new lessee April 1st. She’s being leased by a junior rider who hasn’t done a whole lot of jumping and Georgie is the perfect match to help her build confidence in eventing.

I was super happy when I heard this gal would be riding Georgie. She’d be in a lesson program with Sarah, part of Pony Club, and I knew Georgie would love not being asked much in dressage while still getting to jump some small jumps.

I have the option of riding Georgie once a week to assess mental and physical soundness, and give any feedback to Sarah. Initially I thought I would DEFINITELY ride her weekly, but as the months have gone by, I’m riding her less and less. For one thing, Georgie doesn’t need me to ride her. I watch her with her new rider and she looks great. Sound and happy. Secondly, I have June to focus on. And while I did pony June off of Georgie one day, that ended up being a lot of work and not really stress free, so I haven’t done it since.

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This about sums up that ride

I’m lucky in that Georgie’s pen is next to June’s. The two mares have become buddies and get turned out together. When I bring June back from a ride, I give Georgie a treat before giving one to June, just so June knows where she stands in the hierarchy 😉

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I get to see lots of Georgie’s butt when she’s out on pasture..

My dilemma is this.

I love watching Georgie with her new rider, I honestly do. Of course there is a part of me that wishes I was still her rider, but dwelling on that does me no good. What’s harder for me, is watching Georgie succeed without me.

Does that seem weird/selfish/horrible? It probably is, but hear me out.

Georgie is currently competing at the Intro level in Pony Club events and doing up to 2’3 at jumper shows or derbies. This should come as no surprise, but she is rocking it at this level. Mare can “assume the position” in dressage and is far more put together than any other horse she is competing against. Get her out on cross country and she lopes around safely with an attitude of “just hang on, I got this.” And while she did hit a rail at her last event (which made me laugh out loud) the mare has got show jumping down, even if her rider has the tendency to jump ahead. Essentially, she is safest, most capable, horse out there.

The problem arises when people tell me things like “Georgie is amazing.” “Georgie is such a great dressage horse,” “Georgie is so easy.”

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Back in the day at Rebecca Farm

Yes, she is all of those things. But it took me years and a lot of work to get her that way. And when she wins competition after competition, all I can think is that I hope her rider realizes how lucky she is to have such a great horse. I hope her rider, and those commenting on how great she is, realize there was someone who helped create that. And that, right when she was at her peak, and the hard stuff started to get easier, I had to let her go.

I know it’s a testament to my hard work that Georgie is still easy and happy and retains lots of what we worked on together. But sometimes I don’t want to hear how great she is without a “you put a lot of work into her” at the end of it. Georgie has the best brain and the best work ethic, so she was easy on so many levels, but it doesn’t mean she magically became a great dressage horse, or easy to ride.

So therein lies my dilemma. Be happy for Georgie, and all the fun her new rider is having, without lamenting that I no longer have her, and am no longer the one succeeding with her. In the grand scheme of things, really not a big deal. But every once in a while I long for the good ole days, which seems only natural.

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Fraggle Friday: A Lifetime of Worry

Not surprisingly, lately, I have a lot of angst about Stella.

I worry she won’t eat. I worry she won’t sleep through the night. I worry that she will have another seizure. All I seem to do is worry. Which, I guess, considering her condition, is “normal.”

But then I realized that I have spent pretty much Stella’s entire life worrying about her.

Seriously.

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Young Stella looking for birds

When she was a young dog, I had a friend look after her when I went out of town. I left a 5 page instruction sheet and called at least once a day to check on her. When I returned, my friend joked that Stella had a great time just being a dog without someone worrying about her all the time. It maybe wasn’t the nicest thing to say, but now, 12 or so years later, I kinda get what she meant.

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Stella has driven across the country with me 5 times. She really enjoyed Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

I have worried every day that Stella would get hit by a car.

I worried that she would get hurt while running like a maniac in the hills

I worried that she didn’t get enough exercise.

I worried that she didn’t get enough to eat.

I worried that she was home alone too long.

I worried she had to potty while I was out and couldn’t.

I worried more about Stella’s general well being than I have worried about anything else. For almost 15 years. And weirdly, nothing terrible has ever happened. She ate when she was hungry. Was smart enough to avoid getting hurt when out on runs. She’d have to be slow and idiotic to be hit by a car (at least in her mind) so THAT wasn’t happening. She never went potty in the house and seemed fine snoozing away the day until I got home.

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How is her hair so perfect in the water??

So, really, she’s had a pretty great life, catered to her by my angst.

And while I probably wouldn’t change a thing from our past, my hope is that with Siri, maybe I can chill out just a little bit.

I’m also hopeful I get to worry about Stella for a while longer.

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Back in 2009, right before I left Ithaca NY for Idaho.

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And Then…We Cantered

I need to start thinking of some “How you know you have a warmblood” jokes, because having never had one, I am just beginning to understand how they get their reputation. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE June, but mare is completely fine letting me KICK her and just not caring ONE BIT.

So, all of this is a lead in to my post about the canter, but don’t worry there wasn’t any kicking involved (from her OR me.) It’s just that Sarah and I were trying to figure out how to introduce the canter with me on her back and June made it very clear she was in zero hurry to move on from the trot.

Sarah mentioned there were three ways she likes to introduce the canter under saddle. 1) Go on a trail ride and have the horse in front of you canter and your horse needs to keep up, so it starts cantering. (She did this with Rapid when I was riding Georgie and it worked great) Well, we didn’t really have the time to go out for a trail ride so this one got put to the bottom of the list.

2) Put up some small (tiny) jumps and have the horse land in the canter after the tiny jump. I liked this idea and we decided to try it! Last week we set up elevated ground poles, with the world’s tiniest cross rail at the end. The idea was I would ride through the line in jump position, and maybe she would jump the cross rail! Well, June was completely unimpressed by the “jump” and just kept trotting over it. There would be no cantering during this exercise. Which was kind of a bummer, but also totally fine. We still had a blast trotting over the world’s tiniest cross rail!

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We decided that with June’s lackluster attitude to canter, we’d try option 3: Put her on a lunge line and ask for the canter.

So, before we got to the lunge I just walked and trotted June around a bit. At one point, I asked her to pick up the trot and she was like “No, thanks. It’s hot, I’d rather not” and just kept walking. So I kicked like a Pony Club D1, but nothing happened.

So, June got introduced to the dressage whip!

Smart pony let us rub it all over her and flick it around her in her vision without caring too much. And wouldn’t you know, she’s seen enough whips that me just holding it got her to trot whenever I asked. Warmblood.

We dropped the whip for the canter obviously, and my hope was all our work in the round pen and on the lunge would come in handy. My hope was I could give her the verbal cue for canter and it would happen.

And guess what? It did! We did some slow to fast trot transitions, then, while trotting fast, Sarah gently raised the whip (like I would if I were lunging) while I asked for the canter cues with my body and said “And June cannnntttter” and she had the LOVELIEST canter transition. We did this a few more times and it got better and better. (I got better and better, she was good from the get go.)

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Big kisses for ponies who canter

At this point I felt pretty confident, almost like I didn’t need the lunge line, but we kept it on and proceeded to go right. Well, June LOVES to fall in going right, and it’s kinda hard to keep her from doing this, while also asking her to bend right and pick up the canter. So, our transition wasn’t quite as beautiful, but it happened nonetheless! We definitely have our homework going right!

I couldn’t be happier with how June handled the canter work. The anticipation was kinda killing me and now I feel so confident asking her canter. While she can be a bit stubborn, and maybe lazy, really, when I am on her back, she takes her job seriously. She also is a warmblood in that I think the effort to buck just wasn’t worth it on a seriously hot day. Hey, that’s fine with me!

I couldn’t ask for a better pony!

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Literally all smiles

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