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Poor Vesper

This was my “OMG I’m finally going to ride my horse!!!111” face:

Stokedz

There was an epic sigh of relief (maybe a small groan too) as I settled into my saddle for the first time in a couple of weeks. The sun was bright and hot in a cloudless blue sky, the horses were all out in their shoulder-high grass fields and it was the most perfect day to ride my mare.

Literally glowing

I set the timer for 30 minutes and we plodded around the arena for a bit before moving out onto the track; it’s hogsfuel so super soft and great footing. So. Darned. Wonderful. to ride again. Vesper was miss happy camper and content to plug around. After about 15 minutes I tried a very brief trot which felt pretty solid, so I added a few steps of it here and there a couple more times throughout the ride. Even on the firm arena footing she didn’t feel “off”, so I was cheering inside.

After our ride she got to go out into one of the small fields for a graze… And this is where we cue the poor starving orphan music and the Puss in Boots sad eyes. Speaking of eyes, I’m rolling mine hard at my drama queen of a mare.

I decided that, because we went from rainrainrain to SUN and the sugars in the grass would likely be sky high, it would be safer to put Vesper in a grazing muzzle to start her off. She’s never worn one as far as I know, but I wanted to err on the side of very cautious.

Right from the moment it went on, she was hilarious and had me literally giggling. She kept wiggling her lips and nose against it and just looked really depressed. When I set her loose in the field, she was 100% perplexed. She had no idea what to do. She tried to eat through it but didn’t understand the concept at all and started to pace back and forth.

The most unhappy horse I’ve ever laid eyes on

She kept coming up to me looking for help, but I told her diets suck for everybody, get on with it, and she was so flustered that she began trying to shake it off. I even hand fed her some grass to show her it’s possible to eat through the thing, but that just seemed to make her more frustrated/confused. I was laughing at her misery (nicest horse mom award) because I’ve just never seen her perplexed like this before… She’s the most self-assured horse I’ve met, if horses can even be self-assured.

After about 5 minutes of this (ok I lied it was like 2, I felt too bad) I took pity on her and too the muzzle off. The relief was palpable. She promptly marched over to the tallest grass and chowed down like it was her last meal. A girl after my own heart.

Don’t even have to drop my head all the way down

She got to spend 30 minutes in Heaven and as I came to drag her away so that she doesn’t colic from over-eating the most succulent grass you’ve ever seen, she saw her neighbor leaving and started running up and down the fence. The recently-lame horse who needs to be on Careful Senior Rehab. Idjit. I yelled at her to stop being dumb (1 guess as to how effective that was) and anxiously checked her bad fetlock for damage. The swelling had actually gone down. WTH horse, you’re supposed to be injured, you’d better not be faking!

She even has a willow tree, like how perfect is this wow

I had better not find a fat injury when I check on her next or the grazing muzzle is going back on for reals.

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What’s up

For all of our devoted fans (lol), I apologize for the long silence – not only have I barely been around since the end of April, Vesper has been recovering from a light fetlock strain which has resulted in no riding and thus nothing to talk about.

I can tell Vesper is bored with nothing to do except stand around in the sunshine or boss around her neighbors or eat from her never-ending hay bag. Tough life for a pon.

This. We should be doing this

Instead we are doing this:

I won’t lie, I stressed completely out when I found out she was lame, not only because that super sucks for her, but I am stoked for our show season this year as I had an ultimate goal of moving up to PT and doing a full 3 phase horse trial. I only had 2 shows nailed down for sure (1 h/j show in June to tune up) because I am also in a theatre production of Shakespeare this summer, and now with this setback I haven’t got a clue what will actually happen anymore!

Me, way too much lately
Poser

Vesper had her first under saddle exercise with the leasor yesterday which apparently went well (she’s restricted to walking only at this time, yay rehab) and I’m getting in the saddle myself later today for the first time in a couple of weeks. I think I’ll choose the dressage saddle because comfort.

In the meantime, the weather has finally switched over to summer mode (we only get 3 seasons in lower BC: wet, very wet and summer) after way too long stuck in “wet” mode. Which means the grass in the fields is literally up to my shoulders in some areas… I took one look and went rummaging for the old, never used grazing muzzle. Not today, laminitis.

It was already grazed down, thank goodness

She’s never actually had a laminitis episode, but I’m hyper aware of it being a possibility as she shows signs of being pre-Cushings or pre-IR, so I treat her like she is in order to keep all that fun stuff at bay. (Haha, “at bay”. She’s a bay… Heh.) Last year we weaned her onto being out in 30 min increments and she was eventually living on grass for 5-6 hours at a time. It worked out well, but I’m going to try the muzzle on her for now because we didn’t have monster grass last year like we do now.

Perhaps you remember that a little while back I ordered 2 new bridles from Jeffers – well they came a couple of weeks ago, and were beautiful. I’d show you photos, but unfortunately the nosebands on both bridles are currently at the leather worker’s shop getting extended… Because the oversize nosebands fit really small apparently. Like, almost cob size!? I was really surprised and a little disappointed. Vesper can squeeze into a horse size bridle, especially in the nosebands, but I couldn’t even get these ones done up on the first hole! They were also a little snug in the browband, but that’s totally normal for her – she generally requires a “draft” browband which is 17.5 – 18″.

How does your huge head even fit through that window

Anyway, the rest of both bridles was gorgeous; soft leather and loottts of padding, so I decided it was worth it to get the nosebands extended to fit. The idea of sending them back to the USA was just not in the plans after how excited I was to receive these bridles. Once I get the nosebands back, I’ll write up a proper review and get the mare to do some modeling.

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Playing

We’re going to call it “playing” as opposed to “training” because the goal of the day was for me to jump something 3′ or bigger without talking myself out of it, and I really didn’t school much beyond the usual “please stop rushing to the jumps Vesper”. I know that we badly need to spend time on what happens between the fences (sit up, lift, prevent diving through the turns, etc) but I have such an aggressive mental block against jumping anything larger than 2’9″ so I wanted to keep it light and fun and brief today so that I could go home feeling confident.

Look at this majestic creature. Don’t look at my crooked jump

I set up a little grid with a low vertical, 1 stride to a larger vertical, 2 strides to an oxer. I like these exercises because all I have to do is sit tight and let Vesper jump up to me – I don’t need to get my striding or approach correct because the set up does it all for me. Finding my distances to my fences is my greatest weakness, which causes anxiety as soon as the jumps go up to 3′. Especially because Vesper tends to build as we approach a fence, throwing my eye off completely and causing me to shorten until we chip in – exhibit A:

“Mom wth we can’t fit another stride in here”
“Carrots. So many carrots I am owed.”

We ran through the grid a couple of times with everything set really low so that she could warm up to it and I could settle in. I have recently discovered that jumping into my heels results in a mega stable two-point, although why it took 20 years to figure this one out, I’ll never know. Suffice to say I have never been more secure over fences, no matter the height – and it’s allowing me to have a pretty great auto release (shaving off her mane helped break the crest release habit because NOTHING TO GRAB NOW) since I’m no longer balancing myself on her neck with my hands. 

That’s GOT to be 3′, right?! It looked giant from her back, but then as soon as I dismounted I realized I’d done the thing again where I convince myself I’ve jumped way bigger than in reality. Sigh.

Anyway, here’s our new sandbox, as viewed from the track:

Fave view

Having no fence around the arena has forced me to actually ride correctly because if I don’t keep my horse balanced in the turns we will literally fall out of the arena. Ask me how I know this. Ask Vesper what happens when she ignores my urgent outside aides. So it’s great for growth, less great when you want to just hoon around for fun without being very productive. They’re putting up a fence eventually, but in the meantime I should probably practice my square turns or something.

The excellent news is that I found a leasor to ride V twice a week, and she’s an honest to goodness dressage rider, so my horse should be nice and tuned up for those rare occasions I decide to ride correctly… πŸ˜‚

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Goodies on the way

Breaking news: I bought horse tack.

Yes, I have a problem. No, I’m not going to fix it.

HOWEVER. I was a very good girl this time and did not purchase said new tack until having sold previous tack in order to pay for new tack. Basically I didn’t even spend any money because money came in, and then it went straight back out again as if it never even existed… And I have a little bit left over even! I *MADE* money by buying tack!

OK here’s how this all started. Recently I discovered dressage, and then became an eventer, which OF COURSE meant that I needed to get a dressage saddle in order to ride lyk profeshionul… So I did that, but then my none of my brown bridles matched my black dressage saddle, and if I am going to be a Real Life Dressage Queen (PS this is actually super low on my priority list but it’s an excuse to buy tack so shhh) I CANNOT ride in un-matched tack, or so I’m told. How do we fix this?! We obviously have to buy a matching bridle.

I found a cheap (like $20) black bridle on one of the local Facebook equestrian buy/sell groups (I do a lot more buying on these than selling, it’s more like BUY/sell) but even with a nice cleaning and oiling it just screams “schooling bridle” and I apparently am kind of vain when it comes to horse apparel, so I’ve been longing for a nice black bridle that would also be show-worthy for those 1-2 shows we ever go to in a year… Or for a lesson, or photo shoot, or just because I want my horse to look fancy for no reason at all beyond my vanity. 

“How DARE you make me wear a black bridle and a brown saddle!”

Nothing has come up on these groups that’s within what I want to spend (sub $50, hah hah hah), but then one day recently I stumbled across Jeffer’s Pets.
I won’t get into it too much, but holy are their prices cheap, even once you figure the conversion from USD to CAD. After much browsing and adding way too many items to my cart, I found this pretty (CHEAPOMGZ) thing and I think I spent a solid 4 minutes just drooling across my keyboard.

Can we just take a minute to appreciate how ADORABLE this senior model is?!

Super inexpensive, padded monocrown, padded browband, wide padded noseband and removable flash… and it comes in OVERSIZE!? It only has 1 review, but for that price, I’m willing to take a risk on it.

Then I discovered it has a twin – in havana. To match my jumper saddle.

Look at the fancy stitching. And the wide noseband.

Somehow they both ended up in my online shopping cart (I think I may have blacked out, I remember nothing) and I was left for days returning to hum and haw over them. To get both it was going to cost me $110 CAD, but that would qualify me free shipping to my US post box (I live close to the Washington border). Sure I could just buy the black dressage one, which would run me at about $68 CAD because I’d then have to pay for shipping, but then it’s only a $42 difference to buy a whole new havana bridle as well (my husband would be proud if it wasn’t horse tack I was buying, maybe if it was like cleaning products or something).

This brings us back to the tack I already own. Enter PS of Sweden knock-off bridle that I bought off one of those BUY/sell groups for $150 CAD.

Funnest bridle

An actual PS of Sweden bridle is $468 CAD before shipping from Europe (HA HA HA. Can you hear my weeping) which is never going to happen unless I somehow become independently wealthy or PSoS magically decides they want to sponsor this backyard rider from Canada. I will continue to dream – their stuff is beautiful but unfortunately way beyond my budget. So at the time, this was the best purchase I’d ever made in horse tack items, and it is a hella fun bridle. Anatomical and garners tons of compliments everywhere we go; it’s the only one I’ve ever seen in person. However, this bridle, although very adjustable, was *almost* the teensiest bit too small around Vesper’s poll, especially when I compared it to her WB sized schooling bridle. Not enough to cause her any discomfort at all, but it was in the back of my mind – and then suddenly I had the opportunity to possibly use the money I could get for it to buy myself a dressage show bridle, PLUS a jumper show bridle…
I fluffed a bit about listing it, because (as evidenced above) I am a bit vain and I liked the idea of having the only bridle of that type in my area, but in the end I decided to put it up for sale assuming that I would have people knocking each other over to bid on it. Instead I got a bunch of people asking what was the point of this strange-looking bridle – to which I replied that it is basically the “European Micklem”.

And you’ll upgrade to #modelstatus as soon as you put it on

Fast forward – because this story is getting boring fast – about a week and I finally sold it to someone in the USA, and the moment I got home from putting that sucker in the mail, I clicked that beautiful “checkout” button on the Jeffer’s website and the PayPal transfer that I received for my PS knockoff slipped quietly out of the account and over to pay for my 2 new bridles! On top of that, Jeffer’s promised to honour the 10% off coupon that I was supposed to get when I first signed up but never did, so I will be getting a 10% refund as well. Fist pump!

I keep checking the tracking number they sent me to watch the progress of my shipment (because it may have changed status in the last 3.76 minutes OK?!); I cannot wait to pick them up and put them on Vesper. Obviously once I get them and have a chance to break them in I’ll post a review on the Jeffer’s website, and probably here as well. I’m going to sell my black schooling bridle once they arrive as well, because I’ll be going from the current 2 (jumper bridle and flatting bridle) to 4 and no matter what my addiction tells me, I do not need 4 bridles.

However those Jeffer’s models up there sure look nice in eggbutt snaffles… Hmmmm……………

I almost added the serenity prayer here.

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Whoops

I seem to have forgotten about my blog! Well, not forgotten, I’ve just been filling my schedule with things like Work and Riding When I Can and Husband. 

What she gets up to when she thinks I’m not around enough

The big “busy” this past few weeks has been finding a new boarding barn with only 2 weeks notice. Unfortunately the only way I could afford to stay at my current facility is by sharing a paddock, and my co-boarder gave her notice at the beginning of the month to move her mare closer to her home. Our barn manager originally had another horse to put with Vesper to keep my costs the same, however Vesper doesn’t share well and mid-April the BM informed me that it wouldn’t work out after all. As of May 1 Vesper would have to be in her own paddock and my costs would skyrocket, so I had to rather frantically post an ISO ad on the equestrian FB groups to find a spot to take us on short notice.

Thankfully a friend referred me to the barn she rides at, and although it was the first one I visited, I knew within a couple minutes that it was the place for us.

Google maps photo of the entrance

It’s a good-sized barn that used to be a breeding farm so the stalls are large and airy and they all have in/out paddocks (my fave). 

The paddocks aren’t quite that large anymore

No indoor arena (it wouldn’t be in my price range if it did hah hah) but a large outdoor and a 1km hogfuel track (hello conditioning!) and only a 5 minute drive to the local XC/trails park.

The people are so kind and friendly and there’s only a couple other boarders there, which is a huge change from our current riding school that is almost always busy. I much prefer fewer people so I think we will fit in just great there! They do haynets too which is a big plus to me, since Vesper is a pig and a haynet helps slow her down so she’s not giving herself impaction colic by gobbling at the speed of light.

So we moved in yesterday (Saturday)… No idea how that came up so fast! Thankfully we’ve finally been getting some nice weather so I haven’t even been riding in our (previous) indoor ring for almost 2 weeks. The last time we moved it only took me about 20-30min by myself to move all of my gear into the trailer – however 1/3 of my gear has been living in the trailer since I last moved, so this time it took me 10 minutes to load up. So awesome.

Home sweet home!

Straight to the food

Sizeable enough to shed some sass as needed
I get an entire empty stall next to Vesper AS WELL AS my own tack locker… Basically we’re going to be spoiled rotten here. 

I did get an opportunity to ride once in our (now previous) XC field this past week which has a few neat questions (logs of differing sizes, a ditch, etc). Unfortunately Vesper was super stressed trying to watch the horse going by on the trail loop over and over so it wasn’t very productive. 

Vesper’s previous paddock buddy got injured the other night and was 3-legged lame – no one saw it but we all know Vesper had something to do with it. The vet thinks Kenya hit her shoulder on a fence or the shelter and basically “charlie-horsed” herself (irony). My money is on Vesper kicking out at Kenya during dinnertime and Kenya scrambling to get out of the way, hitting the wall on her way out. Poor Kenya is the sweetest mare and Vesper is always so mean to her; but they’re obsessed with each other, like some serious Stockholm syndrome going on. Kenya was stalled over night and spent 14 hours screaming for Vesper. Thankfully Kenya is walking and trotting pretty much totally normally now so we’re hopeful she’ll be back to normal ASAP. This of course had to happen right before moving weekend *facepalm*.

“You will continue to do as I say no matter how mean I am to you.”

They’re going to be devastated when they realize they’re moving to 2 very seperate barns. Her owner and I are planning to meet up to trail rides as often as possible this summer though.

In other news, I’ve picked my shows for the summer, hurray! June 18 is our first H/J show because it’s the earliest I could possibly do with all the weekends we are away in May, and the horse trial is Sept 1-3 which gives us lots of prep time. I’m planning (hoping? praying?) to ride this one at pre-training level, since my last one was entry level and was almost too easy. I finally bought myself a large-face watch to replace the one I lost, so I can finally start correctly timing our workouts and have an accurate time for our XC runs.

Also maybe learn how to jump around a 3′ course without hyperventilating or ruining ever distance we have from shortening so much.

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Training

So this past Sunday I went with my friend and co-boarder (her mare lives with Vesper) to a dressage/jumper show to play groom for her. I didn’t end up entering myself, because in order to do jumping rounds you also had to ride at least 1 dressage test, and my work schedule lately has resulted in reduced riding time. We can easily bomb around a jumper course with little prep (all I have to do is steer and not fall off on a bad day) but dressage takes a lot more preparation and I didn’t feel confident about riding a test. Yes it was a schooling show, so yes I could have just moosed through it, but I always want to bring my A game to a show, even a bitty schooling one.

Driving behind my trailer instead of pulling it, weirdest feeling

It was the first outing for my friend and her mare as a team, and they did a walk-trot test which was a lovely round and exactly what she was hoping for. I was there to play groom, hold things, take video and be generally helpful, because I myself get show anxiety and having someone there to hand me things and talk me off the ledge makes a world of difference. It was kind of enjoyable to not have to do any prep myself, and just appreciate the show ambiance!

Who am I kidding, I was antsy as anything​ not having a horse to ride myself there πŸ˜‚. It certainly got me fired up for my own show season. I’ve been pretty chill up until now about planning my summer shows, but all of a sudden I realized that it’s now April (when did this happen) and one of the horse trials I was maybe aiming for is in June. Ha ha ha ha. Yikes. Many of my work days are 14 hours long, which means I don’t ride on those days, so each ride needs to start counting for something if we’re going to be fit enough (and confident enough) for a pre-training event.

“Or we could just sleep and eat instead of train”

Yesterday was a flat day, and since it had been miraculously dry for a few days in a row we rode outside in China the huge arena as I wanted to get some gallop sets in to start building Vesper’s wind. We started out with some really solid trot work including lengthening, however apparently I accidentally telepathically communicated to her about the gallop sets, so we struggled some with the shortening portions of the ride. Once we picked up the canter, she was right away trying to haul through the bit which is unusual for her – generally the canter starts out pretty lumbering and warms up into something bigger. It has been a while since we rode outside, so maybe she was feeling more spritely than usual. She doesn’t know she’s an old lady.

“Who’s 17? Not me I’m definitely 5”

I had a difficult time maintaining a canter or even a hand gallop as she just really wanted to let loose and run. I severely dislike riding on her mouth, as it took me so long to soften the hard mouth she had when I bought her, but I couldn’t give her even an inch without her trying to take a mile. So I let her blow off some steam for a few laps, and once she realized she’s not Grand National fit, she eased off a bit and we got some much nicer paces in both directions to finish off.
Of course she was now blowing like the senior she is, and I’m hoping she has decided that I may be allowed to set the pace from now on (probably not if we’re being honest). I’m going to slowly incorporate more stamina work, and if the weather stops being so wet, we can start going out to the cross country field where there’s more space and different scenery.

We cooled out along the trails since they were relatively dry. Vesper is getting more chill out there as she realizes that we always come back to the barn. I can tell she enjoys the change of view, but there’s always an element of anxiety involved.

So now it’s time to actually pick a jumper show and pick a horse trial. More and more I’m leaning towards the September/October HT as that will give us extra time to get ourselves prepared. Likely our first jumper show will be no earlier than June, as most weekends in May are already booked with a billion activities. And also, you know, start actually jumping a height we will be competing at.

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Nekkid

A few weeks ago (or a month? Ish?) I roached off Vesper’s mane, for a couple of reasons of which the main two are:

  • It looks adorbs and badass at the same time
  • Her mane was weirdly uneven thickness-wise: halfway down her neck it went from DRAFT HORSE to Appaloosa (turns out she has a huge bald patch, ew)
    Giant bald patch.

    I don’t regret roaching her at all, because ADORBS and also we are into the Mucky Season which lasts eons and it makes grooming her a lot quicker when I don’t have to scrub caked mud out of her thick draft mane… However the other day I ran into a bit of an issue with this whole nekkid neck situation.

    You may remember from the About Us page that I am an actress in the film/TV industry; well I have also always wanted to do stunt work, especially any equestrian stunts, and I finally have made some connections and contacts and am pursuing this new branch of my career. It came to me that, although I consider myself a very confident, competent rider, I am pretty uncomfortable riding bareback (both physically and confidence-wise) and bareback riding will likely be a huge part of equestrian stunts. Not to mention bareback riding is just generally awesome for developing balance and security without the support of the saddle.

    The last time we barebacked. Only while cooling out.

    So I decided to bite the bullet and get practicing without a saddle, at least for the last 1/3 of my rides. Which is lame because I can only manage a few steps of jog without a saddle ATM so it feels a bit like regression. I will take this moment to make note that, although she is a draft x Warmblood, Vesper has a spine like a Thoroughbred and even short bareback rides make for very painful bathroom visits for about 24 hours. I love my saddles. πŸ˜₯

    I have a breastplate that Vesper can wear during our usual rides as an “emergency grab strap” if necessary, however as soon as we remove the saddle, the breastplate has to come off too, leaving me NOTHING TO GRAB if things go sideways (literally and figuratively). I discovered this on the weekend when I had my first bareback ride that wasn’t just us cooling out, when I instinctively reached forward to stabilize myself at the trot and grabbed only air. So now I actually have to learn to actually ride bareback and not just flop around while gripping tightly to her mane. Bummer.

    Other than feeling a bit like I’ve never ridden a horse in my life, and waddling instead of walking for a few hours after, our foray into riding bareback was encouraging. I spent time reinforcing “whoah” at the walk just in case, and worked up to a bit of jogging. The longest we went was about 1 long side of the arena, but I wanted to end each jogging session on a good note so as to promote accurate muscle memory. I also wanted to protect poor Vesper from my atrocious balance. She was a great sport about it.

    “This is my impressed face.”

    To finish things off, I decided to also start working on dismounting at the different gaits, and remounting from the ground. Someday I may have to fall off a galloping horse for stunt work, so I may as well start getting comfortable with coming off on purpose. Also being able to mount my 16.2hh Hummer horse without holding her mane or using a mounting block will look pretty badass, no? (Once we move past the “landed fish” stage anyway) Who am I kidding, I need her mane to grow back STAT because otherwise I basically just launch my upper body over her back and shuffle my leg over her butt, and there is nothing cool or badass about it.

    I started out using a small jumping block to give myself an extra foot off the ground, and after the initial “WTH woman” look, Vesper stood like a champ while I wiggled and flopped. Eventually I’ll have to phase out the block if I want to actually Be Cool. Thank goodness I had the arena to myself.

    The dismount from a walk was pretty easy… She came to a stop quickly once I hit the ground, and I kept hold of the reins anyway to make sure of it. We repeated it a few times so that I could practice my timing with hitting the ground and stay in motion so as not to get “left behind” as she keeps moving. Every attempt was a success, you’re welcome ego. My only concern really is not to take all the impact on my weaker knee – that and not stumble and hit the ground with my weak shoulder. Stunt performer, you say??

    Next time I’ll definitely feel comfortable enough to try a dismount at the trot, luckily our arena is very soft footing so if I do bite it, I shouldn’t come away too bruised. I am also planning to work our way up to riding tackless, with just a neck rope, but I’d better get comfortable with bareback and a bridle first! 

    In the meantime, I might use one of my stirrup leathers as a safety grab strap around her neck like they do in eventing. I’ll do my best to avoid using it so that my body learns the correct way to manage balance, but at least it will be there in case of an emergency.

    I have a dear friend who is pretty much not planning to ever own a saddle when she gets her own horse, and I think she is a psycho because I don’t understand why bareback is so enjoyable. 

    Psychopath friend who looks majestic riding Vesper with no saddle. Funny story is that she fell off during this ride though which WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IN A SADDLE RACHEL. Ahem.

    Doesnt Vesper’s back just look so comfortable here, like a draft cross should be?! Yeah, it’s not.