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Teamwork Is The Key To Success At The AMHA Convention

The theme of the 2005 AMHA Convention held the week of February 7 at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix was Wild Out West which was abbreviated to WOW! And there certainly was a lot to say "WOW" about. Following some of the events at the 2004 AMHA Convention and Board Of Directors Election, we as a group certainly faced some very real challenges. It was time to put some differences aside and work together to protect and defend the Morgan breed. I stated last year, "If we as members of this Association want to have a say in the breed and its future, we must do something, not just talk about it." And that's exactly what we have done.

We were not about to let apathy defeat us once again. It was time to stand up, speak up, listen up and work together. While this versatile breed of horse means many different things to many different people, it was clearly time for us to unite to insure a positive future. It is our duty to protect the AMHA registry, maintain fiscal responsibility and promote the Morgan horse in a positive manner, and we as a team can make sure this happens.

There's no room for personal agendas or negative attacks, whether they are vicious rumors passed along on the Internet or verbal attacks on the directors or staff of AMHA. We should not be guided or intimidated by the extremes of pessimism nor idealism, we must be realists who keep an open mind and a watchful eye.

The turnout for this convention and the vote in this election were indeed an impressive turnaround from a year ago. It was the direct result of people getting involved, participating and working together. It's all about teamwork and there is no I in the word team. This was clearly seen as a vast group of AMHA members put aside some differing viewpoints to work together for the greater good of the Morgan horse. This is just the beginning of what we can accomplish if we continue to work together as a team. We must look at the past few years as a history lesson and continue to work together to ensure what the future will be.


The AMHA Board Members were first to tackle the business at hand with their full schedule of meetings, which were open to all beginning on Monday, and continuing throughout the week. Convention attendees started to arrive in earnest on Wednesday with many eagerly boarding busses on Thursday morning for a day of live demonstrations and clinics at the Phoenix Horse Lovers Park. The informative panel of clinicians included Sharlene Anderson, Gerry Paiva, Carole Mercer, Shawn McClurg, Maureen Stevens, Mary Jane Atonna, Drew Callahan, Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Jeff Morse, Paul Dietz, and Lydia Hiby. A cool and rainy Arizona day did not deter a large and enthusiastic audience from learning about a variety of avenues for the athletic Morgan horse.

Following a day of enjoying Morgans and the outdoors, a Welcome Reception was held in the Atrium at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix hosted by AMHA President Sherry Cole, AZMHA President Shirley Henry-Biszantz, and Golden West Region 7 President Bill Pettis.

The schedule for Friday and Saturday featured many choices for convention attendees. There were a myriad of topics of interest presented depending on your focus and viewpoint within the Morgan breed and industry. While moving from meeting to meeting attendees visited with the many commercial exhibitors in the Morgan Marketplace located in the Atrium.

Friday's meeting schedule included a day-long meeting of the AMHI Trustees under the leadership of President Mark Staehnke. During the meeting six Trustees were reelected for three-year terms: Ellen DiBella, Elaine Galatz, John Green, Barb Rudicel, Mona Skager and Mark Staehnke. They join the Officers: Mark Staehnke - President, Susan Fu - Vice-president, Richard Hawkins - Treasurer, Meredith Sloan - Secretary, and the following Trustees: Fred Dills, Ellen DiBella, Jack Gatewood, Kim Hildreth, Kathie Horman, Gaeton Lorino, Robert Morgan, Darwin Olson, Art Perry, Sally Plumley, Fran Pugh, Jim Stewart, Ann Taylor and Robin Veghte.

The youth of the AMHA were also involved with a full schedule of events of their own under the direction of AMHAY President Amie Van Dorn. Other committee meetings/forums included; AMHA Youth Steering, AMHA Disciplines, AMHA Memberships/Clubs, AMHA Media Steering, AMHA Education, AMHA Marketing, AMHA Dressage, AMHA Carriage Driving and USEF Morgan Rules.

The seminars offered were very informative and wide-ranging. Breed type, color and breeding were as always popular topics of conversation. Presenters on these topics included Loretta Brown, Nancy Nard, Suzanne Edmonds, Nancy Eidam, Laura Behning, Ann Taylor, Steve Smith and Margaret Gardiner. The breeding seminars led nicely into those on Morgan history. Many different facets of the history of the Morgan breed were presented by Bob Morgan, Bill Pettis, Art Perry, Gail Perlee, Linnea Sidi, Gail Robertson, Ellie Mason, Mary Jean Vasiloff, and Renee Page with some wonderful stories and pictures enjoyed by all.

One of the main topics once again was marketing of the Morgan horse. The sessions started on Friday with Marketing Morgans to the World presented by Angela Conner Bulmer, Kim Hildreth and Mary Woolverton along with Morgans in the Movies with The Wolverton Family. The theme continued on Saturday with Innovative Event Ideas with Penny Lakatos, Fred Nava, and Ed Creighton; Advertising Tips and Techniques with Tami Johnson and Tony Lee; Marketing the Sports Model with Drew Callahan, Earl and Jennifer McFall, Alyson Meredith and Karin Weight; and Good Judgment Equates to Good Marketing with Kathie Cox. Richard Hawkins' presentation on Gift Giving and Tax Implications for Morgan Owners also gave some insight on marketing and horse ownership from a legal standpoint.

AMHA Executive Director Fred Braden's discussion of the significant trends in the Morgan breed and the equine world help paint a picture of exactly where the Morgan breed is and where it's headed in the overall equine landscape.

Following the grand opening of the Morgan exhibit at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2004, Bill Cooke and Bob Morgan gave an update on the Horse Park and some possible future ideas for an increased Morgan presence. Gladys Severance also chaired a meeting of the National Museum of the Morgan Horse Council with a group of attentive members.

Each year a seminar is held on Morgan judging that prospective judges and anyone who shows in any discipline should attend. Cindy Mugnier, Karen Homer Brown and Harry Sebring gave a mini-clinic geared toward an understanding of the Morgan Judging Standards Manual and the USEF Rule Book. They also used a video presentation of guidelines for judging in most of the show ring disciplines.

The immensely popular Train The Trainer series returned with another well-attended series of discussions on all disciplines and areas of training. The audience listened to a fabulous group of knowledgeable professionals and asked some great questions as well. The panel included; Anne Speck, Sandy Sessink, Cindy Mugnier, Ann Miller, Vicki Smith, Sara Mooney, Frank Miller, Bill Grundmeyer and Garn Walker.

The diversity of the seminars offered at the convention gave an indication of the many talents the Morgan horse has and the many interests of the people who work with and enjoy the Morgan horse. Ken Thomas, Linnea Sidi, Gary Gray and Mel Frandsen gave an informative discussion of the Single-Footing Morgan also known as the gaited Morgan. No matter what disciplines you and your horses enjoy, presenter Lydia Hiby is always a sought-after speaker. She spoke about learning how to interpret cues from your horse in a seminar titled "What's Your Horse Thinking?".


The Regency ballroom was the site of Thursday evening's festivities. More than 175 convention attendees gathered for the 10th American Morgan Horse Institute Gala Auction & Cocktail Party on February 10. Ellen DiBella served as auction chairman while AMHI President Mark Staehnke was on hand to welcome bidders and take a bow. John Coppley, John Green, Darwin Olson and Art Perry were on hand to spot the many bids in the well-filled room while phone bids were also being fielded by Sally Plumley, Barb Rudicel and Sally Wadhams. For the second year in a row, items were also available for bidding on the Internet. Ace announcer Bill Carrington worked the crowd for their bids on more than 30 fabulous auction items. It was another memorable night for AMHI along with the many successful bidders and generous donors as over $32,000 was raised to benefit the educational mission of AMHI, including its strong scholarship program.

A winning bid from Malcolm and Jill Smith topped the night as they purchased a marvelous five-night vacation in La Jolla, California at an oceanside property donated by the Yum Kee Fu Family. Other top selling items included a week’s stay as the guests of John and Angela Bulmer at Monnington, an elegant Morgan horse farm in England; a fabulous party to be catered by Meredith Sloan and Ellen DiBella at the 2005 Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show; and a week at the Wilderness Trails Ranch in Colorado, donated by Jan and Gene Roberts. The evening also featured happy winning bidders on advertising space, artwork, equipment, vacations, jewelry and other rare finds.

The AMHI works hand in hand with the AMHA to promote the Morgan breed through its fundraising activities. Beside the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show, this auction is AMHI's primary fund-raiser for the year. The funds raised by AMHI over the last several years have sponsored activities including; youth programs, educational materials, judging seminars, improvements and maintenance of the headquarters and grounds in Shelburne, and the retirement of the Morgan Horse Complex mortgage.


The annual AMHA membership meeting was held on Friday afternoon. AMHA President Sherry Cole called the meeting to order and introduced the Convention Co-chairs, AMHA Board Members, AMHA staff, AMHA Youth Board Members, AMHA Directors Emeriti, and AMHI Board Members to the large crowd in attendance. The minutes of the 2004 AMHA Annual Meeting were then accepted. Eileen Hunter then read the election notice for the 2005 AMHA Board of Directors.

President Cole went on to welcome everyone and thank the past and present AMHA Boards and officers, staff and committee members. In her statement, Cole recalled her past three years as President as "adventuresome, challenging and rewarding" and also went on to say that she is "very proud to have received the overwhelming support and confidence of the AMHA Board and the majority of the members."

Cole went on to discuss some rumors circulating about a potential move of AMHA from its location in Vermont to Kentucky. While its current home in Vermont, owned by the AMHI, may be going on the market, there are no plans by AMHA to move its offices out of Vermont. "An association is so much more than a building (and its contents). It is made up of people - people who all have the same mission, in our case the Morgan horse. It is made up of a staff that devotes every day of their lives to their jobs. Our staff, for the most part, has deep roots in Vermont. Our staff is very well versed in the running of our association, and they would not be easily replaced. In fact, it would be very, very difficult to replace them. We do not want them to be in endless turmoil about their jobs or their futures. The Board has not discussed a move to Kentucky, and it is not on the agenda. People may have been discussing it, but not the people who are responsible for making the decision - the AMHA Board," Cole added.

"Promotion and marketing of our beloved Morgan horse is now at the forefront of the Board’s agenda. Celebrate the Morgan will take place the second weekend of September. This is the perfect opportunity for all of us to promote the Morgan horse in the manner that is most suitable to our involvement with our horses. The staff is developing promotional materials, and there will be suggestions and informational material on the web-site to help you in your preparation for this event. We hope everyone participates and enjoys!

"Financial stability is of utmost importance to everyone, and I am pleased that we continue in a positive financial position. Just a few short years ago, we were in dire financial straits. We have now rebuilt our equity and continue to show positive growth in spite of monumental and unusual expenses. Please don't let anyone tell you any differently. We are by no means flush but are improving our financial position each year. We have made some tough decisions with careful thought and analysis and believe the actions based on those decisions will enable us to continue forward in a positive manner. We also keep you members informed on a quarterly basis with a report that is easy to read and understand. Please take the time to look at it.

"The Registry is our most treasured asset. In the past three years we have gone through investigations and lawsuits. As scientific knowledge improves, we will continue to insure that our registry operates under the rules we have adopted. To me this is a responsibility that is as easily understood as paying the light bill. If we have the lights shut off, we can't operate; if our registry isn't guarded, we might as well close up shop and go home. So be it.

"I have enjoyed the past three years. But any contributions I have made as president are the result of a team effort by our staff and directors. Fred, Erica, Tyler, and all of our support staff have made my job easy. They are always right there doing what they can for everyone. I can't thank my fellow directors enough. I have had some incredible people to work with over the past three years. These people supported, encouraged, and yes, sometimes even defended me. I was a stern task master at meetings and they'd work incredible hours for you and the Morgan horse. My hat is off to them!" Cole concluded.

Vice President of Finance John Coppley was next on the podium to discuss AMHA's current financial status. Coppley mentioned that the previous lawsuit is behind us and AMHA is now financially stronger. The Association remains strong financially with a net worth of nearly $300,000 as compared to -$500,000 in 1999. Copies of the tentative audit as of 11/30/04 were available, and the complete 2004 audit will be available at the May AMHA Board meeting.

The next order of business was the eagerly anticipated election of directors. This followed some delay due to last minute ballot casting. Election Tabulator Jeffrey Walla announced the following results; Director At-Large Harry Sebring, Region 3 Directors Sherry Cole and Ed Creighton, Region 4 Director Tony Lee, Region 5 Directors Judy Kjellander and Ling Fu Wylie, and Region 10 Director Barbara Hewitt. The results of the non-binding vote on the Half-Morgan Registry was narrowly against. Following a strong ovation from the members in attendance, the meeting was then adjourned with a private reorganization meeting held by the Board of Directors.

During the reorganizational meeting of the AMHA Board of Directors, the following officers were elected to the Executive committee; Mike Goebig (President), Eileen Hunter, Tony Lee and Georgie Green (Vice-presidents), Sherry Cole (immediate past President), and Harry Sebring (Director At Large). The following standing committee chairs were named along with their committees. Finance Committee Chair: Sherry Cole - Committee: Bob Painter, Georgie Green, Harry Sebring, Barbara Hewitt, Toodie Connor. Registry Committee Chair: Georgie Green - Committee: Mike Goebig, Sherry Cole, Tony Lee, and Kathy Newcomb. Bylaws Committee Chair: Ed Creighton - Committee: Mary Jean Vasiloff, Judy Kjellander, Linnea Sidi, Joyce Quigley, and Harry Sebring. IT Committee Chair: Kathy Newcomb - Committee: Eileen Hunter, Linnea Sidi, Ling Fu Wylie, and Marjorie Hazelwood.


The Grand National Show Committee followed up their most recent January meeting with a progress report on the 2005 show at the convention. 2005 show chair Jim Stewart and show manager Fern Bittner were on hand to discuss the show with interested audience members. Also on hand were Grand National committee members Barb Rudicel, Tony Lee, Georgie Green, George Arnold, Elaine Galatz, Byron Singer, Darwin Olson, and Sally Plumley along with AMHI Development Officer Sally Wadhams. The show will be held on October 8-15, 2005.

Jim Stewart made sure that everyone knew that the committee is working hard to put on a great show for the exhibitors, trainers, spectators and horses in attendance. He highlighted the change this year to a Saturday to Saturday schedule which should be a very positive change. He also mentioned that fairgrounds improvements will be underway, but that no buildings used for the show will be under any type of construction during the 2005 show. Stewart also related that judges and officials will be enjoying a pay increase beginning in 2005.

Fern Bittner went on to announce most of the members of the judging panel for the 2005 show. She also mentioned early arrival for entries which will now begin the Sunday before the show and should help with a much more staggered and smoother arrival of entries on the show grounds. The early arrival will allow many horses to come straight onto the grounds instead of stopping at layover facilities in the area. The stalls will be available for $15 per stall/per day. Work rings will be available for use upon arrival.

Georgie Green announced the changes in this year's prize list. New classes are a Grand National Hunter Pleasure qualifier for each of the four age groups from 14-17, this will results in two World Championships, one for 14-15 and another for 16-17. In the hunter and western pleasure divisions, a full set of qualifiers and a world championship will be offered for amateur riders 50 years of age and older. These riders can show in either the amateur division or the 50 and over amateur, but may not show in both with the same horse.

Barb Rudicel gave an update on the World Futurity which awarded over $200,000 in 2004. She spoke about working on some new ideas to add more money to the futurity. The fee schedule is also being restructured to include quantity discounts and the possibility to nominate a foal and pay up front for all of his eligible years in the futurity. Profits from the highly successful 2004 World Futurity Party will go into a jackpot for the champion and reserve of a three-year-old class which will be drawn at random. Going forward dams as well as sires of World Futurity winning yearlings will receive prize money. Unless entries warrant, the preliminary classes for the two and three-year-old Pleasure Driving World Futurities have been taken out of the schedule.

Jim Stewart and Georgie Green discussed the party planning for the 2005 Grand National as well as the timing of the youth contest and awards presentations. Darwin Olson will be in charge of the Silver Possibility Drawing while Elaine Galatz is again in charge of commercial exhibits in 2005 and will be the show chair in 2006. Tony Lee explained some of the uses of the Grand National Web site including the ability fill out entry blanks and print them in a completed format.

Sally Wadhams thanked the sponsors for their support of the show. She also informed every one of WDA Video's request to move the cameras to a higher position which would make videos even better and also add 75 box seats in the lower seating area.


The voices of Morgan trainers are now being heard through their increased participation in an organized forum. Professional trainers gathered for a pair of forums on Friday and Saturday where AMHA Professional Committee as well as UPHA Morgan Committee business were discussed. At Saturday's meetings the two groups were clarified somewhat. The AMHA Professional Committee will now be chaired by Harry Sebring with Jim Lowry as co-chair. The UPHA Morgan Committee will once again be headed by Sandy Sessink with co-chair Luman Wadhams. Dawn Fire was elected as corresponding secretary. These two groups hope to work together and also employ regional liaisons in an attempt to have greater participation. The hope is that this will encompass all of the professional horsemen in our breed and it will become a better vehicle to the AMHA Board of Directors for professionals. Sandy Sessink, Cindy Mugnier, David Rand, Jennifer McFall and Shanna Gish were appointed to a rules committee that will serve as liaisons between the UPHA and AMHA Professional Committee and the AMHA Board of Directors on USEF rules.

Cindy Mugnier gave a report from the Rule Proposal Committee. The recommendation was to go forward with two rule changes - a classic shoeing length limit of 4 3/4" - and a rewording of the shoeing band rule. There was also discussion on increased participation in the future for UPHA Awards and UPHA Horse of the Year Awards as well as a request to add classic, hunter and western pleasure divisions to the UPHA Horse of the Year Awards with a report from Jim Taylor and Jim Lowry. Sandy Sessink and Craig Clapp gave a presentation on a proposal for changes in the World Futurity program which will continue to be looked at by the World Futurity Committee and the Grand National Committee.

The UPHA Classics Committee formed a sales subcommittee at the recent UPHA Convention to discuss holding a sale in Oklahoma City prior to the Grand National. Kurt Hufferd and Jim Lowry discussed the early plans. Locations are being discussed as well as the content of horses to be included in the sale. The profits from the sale, tentatively scheduled for October 7, 2005, will go to increase the prize money in the regional UPHA Classics as well as the finals.

Diana Swanson gave a report on the Promotions Committee and their work in preparing for Celebrate The Morgan! being planned for September 10-12, 2005. The goal is to get commitments from farms to participate in this weekend of Morgan promotion. The plan is to involve trainers, breeders, local clubs and everyone who has a Morgan horse to be involved in bringing Morgans to the public in every conceivable way. The process of organizing everyone and making sure they have promotional materials available is a huge undertaking. Information can be found on the AMHA Web site about Celebrate The Morgan. There was also a discussion about trainers offering their services to local clubs for clinics and seminars to help educate and give back to the industry.

At the conclusion of the 2004 meeting in Boston, Sessink closed the meeting with a promise of the group for support, action and change. She vowed that the professional trainers would work together to get the word out and get things done.

As a follow up, Sessink had this to say following the 2005 Convention, "I have been so encouraged by the participation of the professional community since our wake-up call a year ago. And since we all have had a taste of what we can accomplish if we all work together, I am looking forward to taking on each and every challenge together in the future with confidence. We can and we will continue to make a difference."


The AMHA Annual Awards Banquet and Luncheon took place on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon respectively in the Regency Ballroom. The events were chaired by Eileen Hunter and Phyllis Shopbell and featured large turnouts. Susan Parks Morgan lent her unique style and humor as Master of Ceremonies for both events.

Each year, the Awards Committee has the difficult task of choosing the most deserving people in the Morgan breed to receive the highest recognition AMHA can give. The individuals honored have been very successful in promoting Morgans and are very deserving of the awards they received. In addition to giving each individual the full recognition they deserved, memories of some great Morgan history and stories were heard along the way.

Numerous recognition awards and special presentations were bestowed. Convention co-chairs George Arnold, Michelle Anderson and Gail Perlee along with dignitaries including the AMHA staff members, outgoing AMHA President Sherry Cole and incoming AMHA President Mike Goebig were introduced. The AMHA Outgoing Directors Awards were presented along with rousing ovations for John Coppley, Mark Staehnke and Vonne Tarnavsky for their time, expertise and dedication in their years of service. Numerous club and club newsletter awards were also given out. AMHA Master's Certificates for devotion to the Morgan breed for individuals over the age of 60 were presented to Richard Cecchettini, Tom Foster, Art Perry, Gayle and Byron Singer, and Jeanne Thomas.

Royal Heart, Prince Of Jazz, Daniel Dawson, West Mt Winston, WTR Chocolate Bar, Greentree Courtney, Eco Stardust, Royal M Kodi, Kizzy's Kitten, FCL Just A Miracle, Royal Spade Flush, BR AC El Diablo De Tejas, Wesmore Jane Aire, ION Best Kept Secret and Wintergreen Strike were all honored with AMHA Open Competition Awards.

AMHA honored Gayle Lampe, Ben Qua and Richard Sereni with 25-year judges awards and Nancy McConnell as a 30-year judge. The five 2004 AMHA Gold Medal Winners were recognized Western Seat - Katie Anderson, Saddle Seat - Sarah Taylor, Hunter Seat on the Flat - Lynzee Arnold, Dressage Seat - Sarese Reed, and Hunter Seat Over Fences - Fawn McDaniel. Region 3 once again earned the honor as the Grand National High Point Region. In closing, a video representing some of the winning moments from the 2004 Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show was shown.

The evening banquet began with an introduction of all of the current AMHA Board of Directors followed by recognition of several people who have put forth a special effort on behalf of AMHA over the past year with certificates of appreciation. A pair of equine award winners were selected as PB's Split The Wind was honored as the AMHA Program Owned Therapy Horse of the Year while Royalwood Lord Devon was chosen as Individually Owned Therapy Horse of the Year.

The evening continued with 16 prestigious award winners; Angela Conner Bulmer - International Award; Lynn Peeples - Cecil Brown Sportsmanship Award; G. Richard Jeffery, Judith Nason, Vicki Smith and Ivan "Red" Wolverton - AMHA Golden Reins Award; Erin Collins Van Steenburgh - AMHA Youth Person of the Year; Jeff Morse - AMHA Man of the Year; Anne Speck - AMHA Woman of the Year; Carol Knight, Gail Perlee, and Art Perry - Hall of Fame; Anna Ela and Nancy Caisse of Townshend Farm, Margaret Gardiner of Kennebec Farm, Elizabeth Power and Sue Annis of Waseeka Farm, and Jane Steffenhagen of HyLee Farm - AMHA Breeder's Hall of Fame.


On Saturday evening, the AMHA Stallion Service Auction took center stage to close out the weekend on a high note. For the third year in a row bidding began online with an increased number of stallions to 30 offered. Online bidding concluded on February 11, 2005. At that time the top 10 stallions went forward to the final round of live bidding on February 12 in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix.

At the strike of 7:30pm, it was lights, cameras and action! It was time for the eagerly anticipated AMHA Stallion Service Auction chaired by Tony Lee. Auctioneer Bill Carrington presided over the fast paced evening with Mike Goebig reading pedigrees. Carrington explained the rules of the auction and began the live auction.

The top 10 stallions were auctioned off with live bids from those in attendance as well as the many cell phones that were pressed to the ears of many working the auction for AMHA and those bidding for others not in attendance. When the evening was finished, over $60,000 was raised. This impressive total will go to the AMHA Regionals and the promotion of the Morgan breed thanks to the generosity of the donors and the winning bidders.

The top 10 stallions, winning bidders and bids were; Mizrahi (Bill and Kathy Papola) $6,400, HVK Bell Flaire (Jeff and Lynn Yelton) $5,600, Futurity French Command (Robin Veghte) $3,400, Astronomicallee (Mike and Sara Mooney) $3,100, LPS The Boogie Man (Chris and Janet Morris) $3,100, Stand And Deliver (Anne Morgan) $2,900, DBA Street Talk (Mari Sanderson) $2,600, Pondview Tres Bien (Anne Morgan) $2,600, Masque N Black (Michael O'Brien) $2,000, and Smoke Signal (Andrea Sawyer) $1,750. In addition to the stallion services, bidding for a chance to be featured on the cover of the December 2005 Morgan Horse Magazine was spirited as always with Lyn Talmadge awaiting the great promotional opportunity with her winning bid of $5,200.

As the auction came to a close, a fun night was just beginning as the lovely Miss Richfield 1981 took over the stage for a memorable and entertaining performance. It was another night to remember as the camaraderie and positive energy of the 2005 AMHA Convention continued to flow.

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