EMHH Episode 25: How to Communicate with Your HorseJul 21, 2022
Do you wish your horse listened to you better?
Do you want to stop pushing and pulling on your horse?
Do you want to know what your horse is feeling and thinking?
Do you want to be able to influence your horse in a gentle, partnership-based way?
If any of those questions resonate with you, you’ll enjoy listening to this week’s episode of Easier Movement, Happier Horses.
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Hello, and welcome to Easier Movement, Happier Horses. I'm Mary DeBono. And I'm so glad you're here today. In episode 25, we're going to talk about how you can improve your communication with your horse. You know, that ability to feel really connected. It's like you have a thought and your horse responds. And very importantly, it's like your horse has thought and you respond.
Okay. Because remember where we're both giving and receiving information when we're really communicating. So it's a two-way street, right? A dialogue, not a monologue, not us just telling our horse to do things, but having true communication. So let's think about how we can do that better, how it could be more effective and basically kinder to both you and your horse.
So in this episode, what I'd love for you to get up to take away from is that you'll have the ability, you'll have some tools, okay. And this is the basics. Okay. We're going to dive much deeper into this in future episodes. And also this is something I explore very deeply in my move with your horse programs, the online group coaching,
but in any event today, I'd love for you to have a better sense of what communication really means as it pertains to you and your horse, right? And that you have a sense that you could actually lead your horse. And I don't just mean leading, like with a lead rope. I mean, to interact with your horse in such a way that you're not pulling and pushing.
So whether that's doing groundwork, whether that's writing, whether that's literally leading your horse with a lead rope or doing more Liberty work with your horse just free in a, in an arena or a paddock or, or something like that is that you have a sense of being able to communicate without pushing and pulling. Okay. And the other thing I really love for you to get is this idea of developing rapport with your horse.
Okay. Developing rapport. So if you go to the dictionary, right, well, this definition popped out at me and rapport means to have a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned, understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well, now they're talking about just humans, but we know we can have a rapport with our horses and that will make our relationship harmonious and joyful for both you and your horse.
Okay. So I often say that effective communication begins with self-awareness. Okay. Now, why do I say that? Well, this is something that I strongly believe in after working professionally with horses and humans for over 30 years and having a lifetime around horses and studying them, this is something that I found to be really true. So let me go ahead and tell it to you the way you breathe,
move, and direct your attention are felt by your horse. And they all play a role in shaping your interactions with your horse. So your underlying sense of ease or effort, and this is either physical ease or effort. Okay. Like how you move, you know, the feeling of tension in your body, but also emotional. It's also mental.
Like in other words, if you feel anxious, right, that also will be felt by your horse and has a direct impact on how you and your horse experience each other. So this is something that I feel is, So here's something that I'd really like you to keep top of mind, okay. And that's this the way you breathe, move and direct your attention is felt by your horse.
And they all play a role in shaping your interactions with your horse and your underlying sense of either ease or effort has a direct impact on how you and your horse experience each other. This is crucial. And when I say your underlying sense of ease or effort, think of that as both your body and mind. Okay. That they're all, it's all one system anyway,
right? But whether that's physical ease or physical effort, maybe you're feeling strained. Maybe you have a lot of muscular tension, something like that, but also it could just be purely mindset stuff that you're feeling anxious about, right? Your horse will feel that and has a direct impact on how you basically co-create your experience with that horse at that moment. Okay.
So this is really important. And I often talk about this H squared system, the horse-human system. Cause when, with our horse where we're not just really, you know, separate individuals anymore, when we're interacting, there's this, the system, the horse-human system, and you each impact the other. So for example, you know, you may notice that your horse is feeling,
Hmm, not as energetic as normal, maybe something more obvious, like stiffness, more than usual, things like that. In other words, your brain is picking up information from your horse all the time. Right. And processing it unconsciously. And you're making decisions based on that. You're choosing actions based on that. You're having thoughts about it.
Okay. And your horse is also picking up tons of information from you. And the meeting of this, if you will, right? You're processing the information about your horse, your horse processing information about you is what creates that experience. So if you want to have a really high-quality experience with your horse, one, that feels good to both of you.
It's really important to be mindful of these points. Okay? So let's go over that again. How you breathe, move and direct, your attention are all felt by your horse. And they all play a role in shaping that interaction. Okay. So remember that horses are very tuned in to things as prey animals, right? They have to be hypervigilant in their environment.
So even the quietest horse, maybe one that's really bomb-proof, you know, they, they are picking up things about you, your emotional state, very subtle changes in your body language and your movements. They're picking that up. Okay. So it's important to think about that. So let's really break down now, all these different pieces of this. So let's start with how you breathe.
Right? It's the first thing I said, how you breathe, think about if you're around somebody that you just get a sense of, they're anxious. How do you know they're anxious? Maybe they haven't told you in so many words, but you have a sense. There's something about them that feels anxious to you. And very often it's their breathing pattern.
It's how they're breathing. And so much of the time we're breathing in ways that don't convey a sense of ease, a sense of relaxation, right? We're breathing maybe in a way that your horse picks up as there's some anxiety, maybe there's something I need to be afraid of. Maybe there's a problem here. Again, as you know, a horse,
they're going to be really vigilant about that and really tuned into that. So think about like how you can be more mindful about your breathing. So one way is to do a very simple breathing exercise. I often do this in the programs that I teach. We kind of do this at the beginning before we do the hands-on work sometimes. And it's a very useful thing to do.
And you simply take a nice long exhale, just have your lips, slightly apart. So you're, you're breathing, you're exhaling out your mouth, but your lips are just slightly apart. And then you pause for several seconds. Then you close your lips gently, then you swallow, okay. So you swallow your saliva and then you just allow the next inhale to come.
And it comes in through your nose. So you close your, your, your, your lips are closed at that point. So let me say that again. So you might want to do it now, if you're in a place where it's safe for you to focus on this can be helpful. So do a nice long slow exhalation and just have,
your lips slightly apart. So you're exhaling out your mouth, nice and long, then pause now, close your lips, gently swallow, and then allow the next inhale to come. So just always be mindful if you have certain health situations or whatever, where that, you know, changing your breath like that, isn't safe. Isn't good for you. Then don't do it.
Or, or just, it doesn't have such a long exhale. You know, you don't have such a long pause, whatever you need to do to adjust it. Please do so. Okay. But start to become more intentional about how you breathe around your horse. And you don't have to just be obsessed about this. Like always thinking about your breath,
but there are many different ways of improving how you breathe by changing these habitual often very ineffective ways that we're breathing. You know, so this is one, this is a good one to start with. So maybe do that a few times when you first get to your horse and then just breathe normally. But you'll see over time that that can really change how you're breathing.
Okay. So the second thing I said in that statement about how you breathe, moving direct, your attention is of course how you move. So what am I mean by that? Well, do you feel ease when you move, or do you feel a sense of stiffness or tension? How are you standing if you don't even think about it, how are you standing?
Are you kind of over kind of slumped or is your posture just, you know, elegant, effortlessly? Is there, just ease to how you sit and stand and move? Because it's not good either. P some people think they have great posture and they're really just creating a lot of stiffness and a lot of rigidity in their chest, which then goes back to interfere with the breath.
Okay. And your horse is not going to like that. And that creates a lot of stiffness in your movement. So when you're working with your horse, whether on the ground or in the saddle, you know, what you think is good posture, it might actually be creating a lot of stiffness, a lot of rigidity in yourself. So these are things,
again that we go through a lot in my programs. And I have a lot of free content too, that I will link to in the show notes. But remember that you're always transmitting your feelings of either ease or strain to your horse. So whether you're physically touching your horse, maybe you're grooming, maybe you're connecting through a lead rope, maybe you're in the saddle,
whatever it is, you're, you're transmitting either ease or strain to your horse. And oftentimes it's just, that we're moving in a way that's so habitual and so unconscious that we're not aware of it. Okay. So I'd like you to really start to be more mindful about how you're moving. Think, like, where can I reduce my effort and maybe, you know,
start in particular places like, think about, can I release the tension in my jaw? Cause I, a lot of times we hold a lot of tension in the jaw, and can you just let that go? Can you release the tension around your mouth, around your eyes, maybe in your neck? And it's not a matter of stretching and straining, please don't do that,
but just think, can I let go? Am I holding my body in unnecessarily tense positions? Can I soften my joints? Right. If we have too much tension, even just one little place in our body, it, it affects us all throughout our whole bodies. What do I mean? Right. And it's definitely gonna impact your horse as well. So start to ask yourself,
you know, kind of do a body scan. You can start at the top, and work your way down. You could start at your feet, work your way up, whatever you would like, but think about how can I let go of unnecessary tension, right? How can I be, you know, have a more relaxed sense of myself.
Now, of course, there are times when you have to use effort, right? Where there's very efficient, muscular effort, and don't worry, that will come. That will come automatically. What we're looking to get rid of is this unnecessary, habitual tension. That's what so many of us have, and it really interferes with our own movement, with our own quality of life,
as well as our horses. Okay. So really just ask yourself that the other thing is to really be mindful about, you know, your posture with your horse. Are you like repelling your horse with your posture or are you inviting your horse in now, there are times that you might want to do either one? So in other words, maybe your horse is getting too close when you're working on the ground and a little change in how you're standing will actually cause your horse to move slightly away from you,
or it maybe a lot away from you or you can kind of soften and you're middle and draw your horse in. I use this to great success when I was teaching my horse breeze to run up to a mounting block. In other words, he'd be loose in a larger arena, for example, no tack on or anything, but just,
just loose. And I taught him to stand at, you know, be at one end of the arena, for example, and I'd have a mounting block at the other end or wherever in the middle of the arena sometimes. And he would wait there until he heard my footsteps on the mounting block. So a lot of times I had him facing away from the mounting block.
So he wasn't looking at me, but as soon as he heard the, my footsteps, he learned to turn around and come running to the mounting block and put himself, you know, at the right way so I could get on. And, and sometimes I just reach over and hug him or scratch him or whatever, but, and he usually got rewarded with food as well for doing that.
But what was important was really being aware of how I was using the center of myself. Okay. So in other words, when he would start running towards the mounting block, I would just kind of pull in my abdomen a bed, right. Kind of softened my chest and pull in my abdomen a little bit and have the sense that I was inviting him in.
And it worked really well. Okay. So anyway, that's just a fun, little, little fact about some of the fun stuff I do with the breeze, but it really just drives home this idea that you're how you move, plays such an important role in our communication. And a lot of times we're not aware of it. We don't know what we're doing when we're working with our horses or just interacting with them,
hanging out in the pasture or grooming them, whatever. So it's really important again, whether you're on the ground or in the saddle to be very aware of how you're moving and how you're holding, maybe potentially excess tension, which is very, very common, very, very common. Another quick, little, fun fact about how you move, you know,
can affect your communication. When I first started teaching breeze, this Liberty play, I call it. I actually had quite a hard time teaching him to wait at one end of the arena. And for me to walk away from him, he kept following me and he'd come running up to my side. And I thought that's so funny that he that's hard to get.
So, but of course, the problem was with me, it wasn't him, which is often the case, right? Because finally, I discovered that what I was doing, I had taught him this other cue of when I just, if I hadn't, if I was walking and I just had my hands, you know, gentle at my sides and I would just kind of turn my wrist a little bit,
like turn my hand a little bit. He would come running and coming would come right to my side and whichever side I, I turn the hand. So what I was doing when I was walking away from him, you might be guessing this by now is my arms were swinging. So he thought I was cuing him to come follow him, to follow me,
excuse me. So when I finally figured that out, he stood perfectly and stayed perfectly at one end of the arena. I just like, you know, first I started folding my arms in front of me, and then I just realized, I just don't have, you know, just don't swing them as I'm walking away from him. And that worked fine,
but it just showed me how incredibly sensitive they are, that they, they are watching everything. I was unaware that I was inadvertently cuing him. Right. But he said, oh, she's coming me to come. I'm coming. So anyway, just a little side note there. So again, be mindful of how you're moving, how you're moving,
will affect how your horse interprets. Right. How they interpret what you're saying. Okay. And when I say saying, not just speaking English or whatever language, but all the ways we communicate. Okay. Number three, how you direct your thoughts? Okay. You're, excuse me, directing your attention, which comes down to what you're thinking about.
What are you focusing on? Right. So, you know, basically, you can call it your mindset. So stop and think about your thoughts. Like when you're with your horse, what are you noticing? What are you focusing on, right? Are these thoughts that help you move towards your goal of connecting with your horse? Or are they thoughts that,
oh, that's wrong with my horse and that's wrong with my horse? And he seems stiff today and he's resistant and he's lazy and he's too forward. And she's, you know, bulking at this and whatever, but notice your thoughts. Are you finding fault may be with yourself, maybe you're in a very corrective mind state where you're constantly criticizing either yourself and or your horse?
I always talk about the difference between a correcting mindset and our connecting one. So we, we want to think about what are you focusing on? You focusing on what's wrong with the situation or what's right. Cause your horse will automatically be more attracted to you when you focus on what's. Right, right. It changes your physical and emotional state. It just does to,
when you're in that state of gratitude, when you're like, wow, that this is good, right. When you focus on that, you'll get more of that. Right. There are physiological changes that happen in you and they're detected by your horse. Remember horses are super sensitive. So, you know, they're very attracted. Most animals are to the energy of appreciation.
So notice that notice how you're directing your attention. Okay. And think about also what feels better to you. You know, we get so habituated with our thinking and that it actually becomes addictive to think a certain way. They did some really cool studies. I'm trying to think. I might have heard this on Andrew Ubermensch podcasts, the Duberman lab, which is a great podcast,
by the way, I'll link to that in the show notes. But there was a study that was done where they had people hooked up to different brain monitors if you will. And they were able to stimulate different states. The subjects were based on, you know, different dials. They were moving or whatever they were doing. I don't remember the details,
but what they, the researchers found out was that left to people's own devices when they were sick, when they were told, okay, you can, you can kind of stimulate whatever state you wanted to be in. The people found the most pleasure in a state that was irritating. In other words, a, a state of irritation, not huge irritation,
but kind of like mild irritation, which now explains why so many people get kind of addicted to this idea of arguing with other people, right. Going on social media and starting fights and looking for things to complain about, right? Because that releases different neurochemicals that just become then addictive. Our brain starts to do that over and over again. So do you really want to live that way in a state of irritation?
No, I don't. I don't think so. And certainly, your horse won't like it. So if you want to have that sense of real connection of communication with your horse, you need to think about where you're directing your attention. And again, this isn't a beat yourself up. So don't into some vicious, downward spiral where you realize, oh my gosh,
I'm I was focusing on something that I didn't want. And that means I'm terrible. And I screwed up again because obviously, that's just self-perpetuating. You want to come out of that. Right. And you want to think on purpose, think intentionally, you don't want to keep replaying the same old thoughts over and over in your mind. Okay. So let's use a writing example for this.
If you're thinking, if you're in that corrective state, right. If you're thinking more of like looking for what's wrong, you might think, Hmm, I'm asking for a bend. You know, maybe you're doing a circle to the left. Let's just say, and you're like, gosh, my horse is stiff today. You know, I need more bend.
I need more bend. Right. I need this. This is bad. I need to change it. Right. I need to fix my horse. So what do you do? You probably use stronger aids, use more leg, maybe more rain, maybe even a tap with a whip or poke with your spur. Right. But in other words, you're trying to force something to happen.
Maybe the horse bends more easily to the right, but you're focusing on, I want to get this bend to happen the way I want it. I want to try to insist that my horse bend this way to the way that I want to the degree that I want. So think about what that strategy does to your horse, and how your horse experiences that.
So maybe your horse is physically stiffer that day, which is often the case. Right? And they have a reason that they are not bending as well to that side. There's always a reason. There's always a reason. Okay. Maybe it's even anticipation of pain. Right. But there's always a reason. So if you start just to insist, you break those bonds of trust,
you do the opposite of creating a nice, deep connection with your horse, right? You're focused on correcting, not connecting. You're acting in opposition. You're basically telling your horse. I don't have your back. I'm not looking out for you. This is what I want, and I'm going to get it. And your horse might eventually comply, but you know,
they will risk. In other words, you'll be setting them up for failure physically because there'll be doing something to compensate for that. And also mentally, and emotionally. So you're changing how they experience being written by you, right. And you're setting them up then for the next time to realize, oh, she's going to force me to do that. I have to kind of contort myself to get it done.
Even if it's not healthy, even if it's not good for me. And oftentimes those ramifications will show up later, the problems will show up later. So this is really, really important. And again, this is stuff we go over quite in depth in my online group coaching program, move with your horse because there are ways on the ground first using hands-on gentle hands-on methods to start identifying how your horse might be having restrictions in the body.
And then being able to transfer that to, you know, freer movement for your movement under saddle as well. But it starts with finding out what they do easily and building on that. So start to notice that when you're in the saddle or working on the ground, what's easy for your horse and build on that. There are sound scientific reasons why that works.
Okay. Now, to be able to do that, to attend to that fine level of distinction in yourself, to have that kind of feel, this requires a lot of awareness. Again, we go back to this idea of self-awareness. This is very, very important. So the more awareness, the more body awareness you have, the more just awareness in general,
because it's also emotional awareness, mental awareness of your thoughts, but having certainly more sensory awareness will allow you to feel your horse more. And then you can respond more accurately. You can respond, you know, with the right coordination of your aides with the right timing. So having more body awareness, you can start, I mean, this is fundamental,
you can start with this, that idea I spoke about earlier about kind of doing a scan of your body and reducing your tension because oftentimes that habitual tension is what's numbing you, right? It's reducing your body awareness. So the more you can release a necessary tension, the more awareness you'll have your start to notice things. If you know, this is actually very,
very good to do, lying down on the floor. Okay. Find a comfortable spot to lie down on and then go through a whole scan of yourself. Really. First of all, notice how you're lying on the floor because often that's actually kind of like a copy of how you're standing. A lot of times you have a similar posture and line like just say you have a large space behind your lower back when you're lying on the floor.
It's very likely that you have a lot of excess tension in your back muscles when you're standing. Hey, and again, that's telegraphing something to your horse as well as creating problems for you. So start by lying on the floor, maybe put something under your head, certainly if your neck feels tight or anything, so make it comfortable, lie on a carpet or an exercise mat or something,
you know, not too soft, not like a bed is not ideal because it's too squishy. She needs some feedback from the floor, but start to notice how one side of your body may feel different than the other one leg may feel longer. You know, one side of your back may be more tense. You know, your shoulder blades may feel different,
your arms, your, you know, all the different parts of yourself, kind of just go through a scan and see where you can reduce your effort. Okay. Very, very important. So really good, the basic thing to do to start to develop your body awareness. Okay. And then let's go on more to now, you know, what's, what's a good first thing to do with your horse when you're developing this deeper sense of connection.
Well, it's really important to just simply observe your horse, okay. Observe your horse free and the pasture and the paddock, wherever your horse is, certainly observe your horse while leading your horse while doing the groundwork. And of course, while riding, oftentimes people will tell me, I mean, this is so common that after they do a hands-on session and the hands-on work,
we call DeBono moves. They'll do a, a hands-on session with their horse and walk the horse after the session, they'll walk the horse before and after. And they immediately feel an incredible difference in the lead rope. In other words, the sense of the horse walking that feeling that's transmitted through the lead rope to them is quite different, often, much lighter and much freer.
So it's really kind of cool. So start to pay attention to this when you're leading your horse, what is the feeling? So let's, let's say you're leading your horse with the lead rope. What is the sensation when you're leading? How, how much effort do you feel? Is there a sense of freedom in your own bodies or sense of freedom in your horse?
Is there a sense of shared space? So one really cool thing about, you know, experienced questions is that we actually share our personal space with our horses. And when you're skilled at writing or leading, you know or being, I should just say, as a skilled horse person, you start to blend your personal space with your horse. Again,
this goes back to that horse-human system and your brain starts to accommodate your horse's body, and your horse starts to accommodate your body. It's like, you start to become very aware of where they are in space, how they're moving. You can even start to have this sense that you feel their feet touching the ground. Now, I don't know if the horses feel our feet touching the ground in the same way,
but I certainly know you can have that sensation with a horse, especially a horse you're really connected with. Okay. So it's really something to think about this idea of kind of a shared space. And this is, you know, when the horse people talk about moving as one with your horse, I mean, it's really a very cool feeling. So your brain,
again, starts to accommodate, starts to, to map where your horse is, how your horse feels pretty cool stuff. Okay. So think about that. So when you're, especially when you're riding your horse, so I think it will be easy if you think about this when you're riding, if you're just starting on this journey, think about your skeleton and your horses,
skeleton as one. So just have that image, have that image. Okay. You and your skeleton, your horses, skeleton or one. So think about how you would move if you were one skeleton. I also like to think about being one nervous system. Okay. So we're one nervous system. We're so connected that we're one nervous system. Again,
that gives you the idea that you can feel your horse more. You can sense your horse more, and when you can sense your horse more, you can communicate much more effectively. Okay. So really, really important. So start to play with these ideas. You're one skeleton, you're one nervous system, and you can play with this on the ground too.
When you're touching your horse. Again, this is something we do a lot in. I mean, my group coaching programs is when they're learning, when PE students are learning the hands-on work, it's, you know, when they're doing it, they really feel that their one skeleton, the horse and them, or, you know, or one skeleton and one nervous system really pretty cool what you feel and what you can pick up about your horse and how you can then influence your horse.
This is what I'm talking about. When I say you can lead or direct your horse without pushing or pulling because you have this deep quality of connection. So just, you know, keep those, those things in mind. And then, okay, I think I'm going to wrap up here. K. This is the foundation, the foundation. So start to think about these different things about how you can change,
how you, you know, be intentional about how you breathe, how you move and how you direct your intention. In other words, your thoughts, you know, what you're thinking about, where you direct your attention and how that can impact your horse. And then I'm going to ask you this question. When was a time that you felt deeply connected to a horse?
Now, maybe the horse you currently have, it could be a horse from your childhood could be a horse you just met. I often, when I do hands-on sessions, feel deeply, deeply connected with horses. I just met. It's really, really cool. So, but think back to a time where you did feel deeply connected to a horse and think back to the circumstances around that,
what were you doing? What was the horse doing and how did that feel inside you to have that sense of connection and then put yourself, and now maybe, maybe, for example, you think, I don't really have an example I can pull from my memory bank right now. Don't worry. I'll also invite you to think about having that happen in the future.
So let's, let's jump into the future. Okay. Let's jump into the future and that future can be an hour from now. It could be tomorrow. It could be a month from now. You choose, you choose the timeline. You don't really have to specify, just say, it's in the future. And you're having that connection that really deep blissful,
blissful connection with a horse. What does that feel like to you really be B B you know, detailed about this, really feel it in your own body? What does that feel like? What are you doing with the horse? What is the, how is the horse responding? How do you know that the horse is feeling connected to you as well?
Because remember, this is a two-way thing. What behaviors is the horse exhibiting that lets, you know, they're connected and play with this really, really play with this because it's so cool because then you can, your brain will understand what it's like to have that sense of connection? And it'll start giving you the opportunities, and experiences to create that in real-time.
So again, put yourself a bit in the future act as if this is happening right now and really embody these feelings because they're really wonderful. I want everyone to feel this, every horse, every human cause. It's so darn cool. Okay. So I left you with that. I would love to hear any feedback about that. If you want to share your experiences with me,
you can always email [email protected]. And I'm going to give you some free resources in the show notes. So a couple of different things. One is, if you haven't done more rider masterclass, it's totally free and it really can help you improve your seat on your horse, your body awareness in general, all kinds of good things. So please, please do that.
It's easy to get you just go to Mary debono.com forward slash rider, Mary debono.com forward slash rider. And you can get that totally free. And again, this will all be in the show notes. So on your podcast app, you'll see links or the show themselves will [email protected] forward slash blog forward slash H as in horse and has to be a capital H 25.
So Mary debono.com forward slash blog forward slash H as in horse capital age 25 K. And again, all this will be in the podcast description too. So that might be easier for you. So then, oh, one more thing I wanted to tell you, if you want to take a deeper dive into all of this, which I really, really hope you do join my wait-list for the move with your horse online group coaching program.
I mean, there's no, there's no risk to you because there's no, there's no commitment if you joined the waitlist, but you're going to get a lot of cool stuff. If you join and then join the program. So the waitlist [email protected] forward slash join horse. Now that's all lowercase. Okay. Mary debono.com forward slash join horse. It's one word and all lowercase.
Again, that'll be in the description and the show notes and all that good stuff. And always just shoot me an email. If you didn't get some of this and you want more information, [email protected]. So I want to thank you so so much for being here. I love sharing this work with you and you know, I always feel that,
you know, you and your horse deserve to feel great together. Okay? And remember you can move easier and feel better at any age. So thanks again for being here. Can't wait to share more at a later date and I'll talk to you very soon. Bye for now.