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Western is better for the horse than English riding

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/18/2013 Category: Sports
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 8,017 times Debate No: 35747
Debate Rounds (5)
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I know I may not explain everything here, but I will get to it as the Debate continues.

To start, I am going to explain a bit, with no bias. Western riding is most commonly seen at Rodeos and on ranches, and it is the most common discipline for trail riding. A Western saddle comes in many different types, each suited for a purpose, but it has a reputation for being easy to sit in, and helps the rider feel secure. A Western horse should be able to go forwards, backwards, sideways, turn and stop with slack still in it's reins, and very little visible command from the rider. English riding, on the other hand, keeps constant contact with the horses bit, causing the reins to look tight, although that may not be the case. The goal, in most English events is to also have the horse respond to not so visible command from the rider, although what the horse does can be a bit more intricate and challenging looking than what the Western horses do, although sometimes it can be similar to what Western horses do. Other activities have the horse jumping obstacles that can be taller than the horse itself, or racing flat out at top speeds, although some Western Events also have horses running flat out, although they must make tight, sharp turns around barrels, or weave in and out of poles. An English saddle is smaller, and less secure than a Western saddle, although no less useful. Each English saddle is designed for a specific purpose as well. The only real similarity between each saddle is that they both help both horse and Rider do there best.

Now, I am going to start with events can be used against me: Ranch Work, Cutting, Barrels, Poles. Events I will use: Dressage, Jumping (all types), Racing and Saddle seat.
As stated above, the goal of Western riding is for the horse and rider to be almost one. You can argue it is the same in Dressage, but in reality Dressage is painful to the horse, no matter how pretty it looked. It forces the horse into an unnatural position, which later causes the horses to have severe neck and breathing problems. A common way to train those horses how to dance is to tie them up so they can't go anywhere, then they are beaten about the legs, making them "dance" to avoid it, not to mention all the contraptions that are put on a dressage horses head, forcing there head into the unnatural position of having there chin on their chest, known as rollkur. Next we cover jumping. Cross Country has horses running as fast as they can, over many different terrain, jumping over many types of obstacles, all different sizes, and many lead into water. Many horses balk, and are still forced over jumps, causing them to fall and injure, or kill themselves and their rider. It is very stressful on the horses, and many get injuries causing early retirement. Steeple Chase is much like horse racing, only there are jumps added along the way, causing many horses to also have fatal injuries. On to Horse Racing. In horse racing physically immature horses, still yearlings, are forced to run as fast as they can, until they literally break down. Yes, some horses enjoy racing, but it is very stressful on their bodies, many horses breakdown before having run many races. Numbers from the Jockey Club's equine injury database covering a one-year period show that one of every 500 Thoroughbred starts at North American racetracks results in a fatal injury. This represents about 800 deaths. Reporting is voluntary with 85% of race tracks participating. Not only do there legs give out, but there organs can as well. A study in the Equine Veterinary Journal found hemorrhaging in the lungs in 95% of horses during two post-race examinations. Researchers found gastric ulcers in 93% of horses in race training, in horses that had actually raced, the incidence was a staggering 100%.-See more at: Saddleseat takes horses with a natural high step and makes it higher, more exaggerated. The most common practices involve leaving a horses toe too long, which can cause joint and leg problems, and bits can have shanks around 9", on double bridles, not to mention these horses also have a forced headset, and rarely see the light of day, outside of showing and training.
Many people say reining is similar to Dressage, and in some ways it is, but in those same ways, they are entirely different. A Dressage horse is in a forced headset, with taught reins, while a reining horse runs on loose reins, with a natural headset while executing natural, low stress movements, many even run bitless. Cutting is another Western event, in which the rider does very little, and if they visibly signal their horse they are penalized. This one is all horse, many horses can do it without riders.

Examples of Rollkur

Cross Country and Steeple Chase

Examples of Racehorse breakdowns

Examples of Saddleseat




I ride English, Western, and sometimes saddleseat. I'm not going to uphold the position that English riding is better for the horse than Western, but rather that they are both equal in their benefit for the horse.

I'll agree with everything in your first paragraph. It seems like just a typical overview of equestrianism and the differences between the two sides.

Let's move on to your second paragraph. I'm going to address each event separately, starting with Western.

Reining: You say that reiners run on loose reins; however, they really only show on loose reins. In training, riders often take up the reins in two hands and use a contact similar to dressage. However, when unskilled hands do this to a horse wearing only a curb, that can cause large amounts of pain from the huge amount of leverage. In skilled hands, a reiner can work easily and freely - but in the wrong hands, it can be painful.

Ranch work: Working on a ranch can be very rewarding for humans and horses alike. However, we have to keep in mind that it's not all fun and games; even if the horse isn't being asked to collect itself or work in a frame, it's facing the trials and tribulations of working out in the open, sometimes in harsh and unforgiving environments. There is nothing inherently wrong with ranch work, but done insensitively, it can be painful or even fatal.

Cutting: I have seen many horses absolutely love to cut. I've also seen horses that are downright terrified of cows. For some horses, cutting is fun and it comes naturally, but for others, the cow would be cutting them. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with cutting, but if someone were to force an unsuitable horse into it, it would be scary for the horse and dangerous for the rider.

Barrels/Poles: Some horses run, and that's what they do. They love it, they're good at it, and they have a competent rider to race them. However, if their rider is like many of the lower-level gamers who tie boots to stirrups, rely on massive bits to stop a hot horse instead of proper horsemanship, or use the crop indiscriminately, a fun event quickly turns into an abuse fest. A good horseperson can ride a timed event with no abuse - but a bad horseperson will quickly sour a horse in any event.

Now let's move on the the English disciplines.

Dressage: Most horses in dressage are at the lower levels, where the frame you describe isn't required or even encouraged. The ideal training level or first level horse travels in a relaxed manner with some impulsion. In those levels, the horse is required to trot a 20m circle on a loose rein, stretching forward and downward to show acceptance of the bit and willingness to go forward. All dressage tests, even at the Olympic level, require a free walk, where the horse stretches toward the ground through the neck on a loose rein. Rolkur, as you describe it, is illegal under FEI rules, and many riders have been issues sanctions for practicing it at shows. I'm fairly certain the "tie horse up and beat its legs" is a training practice not used often, if ever. Perhaps you're referring to piaffe training, where a horse is tapped with a whip on the haunches or back legs to help it keep a trot rhythm in place.

Jumping: Cross country horses are, in my opinion, the fittest athletes of them all. They are slowly conditioned so that not only can they handle the stresses of running and jumping cross country, they recover quickly and can do showjumping the next day. Horses that refuse repeatedly are eliminated from competition. It is nigh on impossible to force a horse to do anything it does not want to do. Fences in cross country are also some of the most dangerous because of their solid nature; however, many new fences now have frangible pins which can prevent rotational falls. As an added preventative measure, horses wear grease on their legs to help them "slip over" a fence if they strike it. Cross country injuries are rare, but they do happen.

Racing: Racing is, of course, the most controversial discipline of the whole of equestrianism. The harm done to the animals here is higher than anywhere else. That said, Thoroughbreds are bred to grow quickly. Any horse at any age can suffer the same injuries they do. The Jockey Club has one of the best injury reporting systems of any breed - it may be that we just don't know injuries or deaths exist in other disciplines.

Saddleseat: The horses here are hot. They can be spooky. But the winners are powerful, strong, and they adore their jobs. Shoeing is a game of guess and check, and sometimes it takes years to find the right balance for a horse. Generally, the toes are quite long for show season, but in the off season, many horses are trimmed shorter to give their tendons a break. At the least, they get a keg shoe only - those packages are expensive! In Saddlebreds, Arabians, and Morgans, saddleseat horses are shown in a double bridle. The shanks are longer than in dressage, but nowhere near 9". Most shanks are closer to 7" - and with a horse that powerful, I don't blame the riders for wanting that level of control. Of course, the curb rein is used only to collect the horse, not steer or rate speed. The snaffle is what most riders use the majority of the time. Saddleseat horses are built to carry their necks and heads the way they do; check out any picture of a saddlebred stripped for inspection and you'll see what I mean. Their necks are set on practically vertically, and their throatlatches are slim and allow their heads to come in close to the vertical. Saddleseat barns don't turn out as much as dressage, jumping, reining, or cutting barns - partially because the horses wear shoes that, if ripped off, would bring a good percentage of the foot with it; and partially because the horses need to be hot to work well.
Debate Round No. 1


Dressage: When I talk about how the horses are tied and beaten about the legs I mean just that. No, I don't mean then they are tapped lightly, I mean what I said. As for Rollkur, it is seen everywhere, even at the Olympics, and can be seen in lower levels, not just the higher levels.

Cross country horses may be fit, but it is still very stressful on joints and tendons. If a horse refuses too many times, it shouldn't have been there in the first place, it means the horse probably wasn't ready. It is actually very easy to force a horse to do something, it is seen all the time. Whips and spurs cause pain (when used improperly), and to get away from the pain the horse must do as being told, or they will feel more pain. And as you stated, many CC jumps are solid objects and can easily injure a horse.

Saddleseat: The horses may be hot and spooky, but that proves that they were only trained to show, and that was it. Any hot, crazy horse can be desensitized and trained properly, and maybe lower there hotness levels. Shoeing may be a guessing game, but there toes should not be too long, and as you stated, it does stress there tendons, causing lameness and injuries. And many bits can be over the 7", making the 8", and yes, the horses may be powerful, but they should be properly trained, so they shouldn't need those long shanks to control them. That is bad horsemanship. If a horse needs to be hot to work well, then there is either something wrong with the horse, or rider. A horse needs to be turned out for more than a couple minutes at a time, and for more than being worked. Keeping a horse in the stall to make them hot ruins horses stall behavior. If that horse was to be sold that could be a disaster for the new owner, also if the shoes will rip off a good part of the foot, it shouldn't be on the horse at all.

You don't see this near as much in Western as you do in English, and the injury count in both horse and rider is also no where near as high.


Dressage: Okay, I've seen plenty of horses trained for dressage with none of the beating techniques you're talking about. Can I get a news article, anecdote, or some other form of proof that this is common? I'm not sure if you've been to any dressage competitions recently; the equestrian news definitely blows up rollkur and if you haven't actually seen a warm-up arena in the past year, it's easy to believe that it happens all the time and is encouraged. However, in last year's Olympics, we saw that not only were the rules strictly enforced, but also the posture that comes from rollkur was penalized: . I don't quite believe your claim that it happens at lower levels. I tried to find any reference to rollkur in reports about dressage in training through fourth levels and failed.

Cross country: Allow me to remind you that cutters and reiners are started earlier than cross country horses, get closer to the ground than cross country horses, and run just as fast as cross country horses. If a horse refuses many times, I agree that it wasn't ready. However, the financial incentive to leave an unprepared horse at home is great in eventing competitions. It's simply too expensive for most people to bring a horse who can't do its job. What you describe as force is different from my definition. I think of force as the ability to actually make a horse do something, by pulling or pushing it. The horse doesn't cooperate at all. All training, no matter the discipline, involves pain. Cross country horses are no exception. When they refuse, and the rider uses a crop or spurs, the horse is then left to decide what pain is greater: jumping the fence and relieving the crop/spurs, or enduring the crop/spurs and refusing the fence again. They also have another option: dump the rider and just go back to the trailer. Horses who are improperly prepared will inevitably fail or be injured - a law that applies to all horse-related endeavours, not just cross country. By repeating the statement that cross country jumps are solid, you're ignoring my responses that many are not solid and that horses are adequately prepared for the possibility of running into a solid fence.

Racing: Since you didn't address any of my arguments on racing, I'd just like to refer to my last post. All of my point from there still stand.

Saddleseat: The trainers and riders actually want a hot and spooky horse. Any saddle horse can be desensitized quite easily; they're some of the smartest horses out there. Most of the older horses can turn on and off - they go on trail rides and are fine, but put them in a show ring and they are ready to go. The younger horses generally aren't mature enough to make that distinction. A saddleseat horse is carefully watched for any stress, since a minor injury left untreated can blow up into a career-threatening one. All trainers and riders in this discipline are in tune with their horses, perhaps to a greater degree than any other discipline, because the potential for injury is high. A horse, once injured, receives the best care possible in order to ensure its well-being and return to what it loves best: the show arena. The horses are properly trained. The majority work at home in a half-cheek snaffle with two reins, one through a running martingale or training fork and the other a direct line from mouth to hand. At shows, the curb is added for extra finesse. A squeeze of a finger can tell a horse to raise its head and lower its haunches. The control aspect comes into play when the environment is more energetic. If you're telling me you'd rather ride a very strong horse 2 feet away from a cheering, clapping, yelling crowd in just a snaffle rather than a snaffle and something with a little more stopping power, well, I think you might change your mind if you actually had to do it. A saddleseat horse is never going to be sold to someone who isn't prepared to ride it or have a trainer ride it. I doubt you would ever buy a saddleseat horse because it's entirely different than what you're looking for in a horse. Someone interested in the discipline would have a different view and a different way of handling horses. A shoe that carries risk is one that should be considered carefully; only a horse who will benefit from the package should wear it. It should be worn only when necessary. And special care should be taken so that no harm is done. All of these precautions are taken by good saddleseat trainers, farriers, and barns.

It may be that in Western, the abuses are simply commonplace. For example, in western pleasure in all breeds, a rollkur position is common at home and at shows. You didn't address any of my specific points for the western disciplines. Reiners are worked with two hands in curb bits with shanks on par with saddleseat horses and mouthpieces much more severe, and with no snaffle option to boot. Ranch horses have a very high risk of injury and encounter dangerous situations often. Cutters are loped for hours on end before showing, and some horses are forced into the discipline even though they aren't suited for it. In timed events, a bad or mediocre rider hell-bent on success can easily slip into abuse.

Not only have you not provided evidence showing the injury count for English horses, you haven't shown an injury count for Western horses. In order to claim that one is higher than the other, you need to have numbers from a reputable source. Since I'm not claiming anything to do with injury numbers, I don't need to provide sources. The burden of proof here is on you.
Debate Round No. 2


Dressage may not have always been bad, but it is sure deteriorating, faster, it seems, than it is getting fixed. This video can explain what Rollkur does alot better than I can:

A Reiner and Cutter may be started earlier, but that is not very common, and a CC horse may be jumping before they are physically mature. A horse cannot be prepared to run into a solid fence, not matter how much grease you smear. They will still suffer an injury, from a bruise to possible broken/fractured bones. Yes, the fences are slowly becoming less "solid", but some still are, and pose a danger to both horse and rider.

Saddleseat: Did you know many people, Western people, ride Very strong horses 2ft away from screaming, cheering crowds with a snaffle, bitless, or even bridle less. It may be different, but I rode my Hot headed Arab along a very busy highway in just a rope halter, with semi trucks flying by.

More common than Rollkur, which is very rare, is a natural headset, even with the withers, although some horses can be seen with a head with a lower set. Yes, a Cutter may be loped for hours before a show, but those horses are fit for duty, and may be a little hot, and to make sure there horse can perform their best, the rider may need to help the horse blow some steam.

Western horses are still performing well into their 30's, but it seems alot rarer for an English horse.


Dressage: Ah, yes, the famous rollkur video. Not only have I seen it, I agree with most of its claims. Rollkur is bad for the horse and must be eliminated from dressage. The FEI and USEF are both taking steps to do so. I took a look at the website you linked; not only is it seven years out of date and does not reflect recent changes in dressage ideology, the author is incredibly biased. He has no experience in dressage, but rather focuses on racing and rodeo events. The claims he makes are invalid and not backed up by any sort of proof. He references pictures to demonstrate the abuses in lower level dressage; however, the pictures are clearly of upper level horses wearing double bridles, a piece of tack only allowed at third level and above. He also does not provide scores of the horses he criticizes, so we can't know if these postures were rewarded or discouraged. I'll now refute the other claims he makes, ill-founded in reality though they are:
1. Dressage horses are worked in small rings without proper collection. In fact, only the show ring is required to be a certain size and most trainers work in much larger rings at home. Dressage is meant to be a logical progression up the training scale, so horses are not required to be collected until later levels. They are required to be balanced and not drop their shoulder or hips in to a turn. Failing to remain upright and balanced is a major fault at even the lowest levels of dressage.
2. A forceful or punishing seat. I clicked through to the seat page, where the author shows pictures of both dressage and reining. Interestingly, the dressage horse he shows is (according to his own definition) uphill and proper, despite this "abuse." Clearly the horse is not influenced too negatively. Leaning backward in the extended trot allows the rider to (a) free the horse's shoulder and (b) allow the seat to move more fluidly with the added movement. If you wanted to swing your hips with a big trot, it would be easier to do if your hips had somewhere to go.
3. Unnecessary use of severe aids. Not only are bits strictly regulated (the maximum shank length on a dressage curb is less than 4 inches, whereas in reining the max length is 8.5 inches), the spurs are carefully checked after every ride by the technical delegate. Any spur mark on the horse disqualifies the pair. Any blood in the mouth or on the sides can cause ejection from the show grounds. Only smooth spurs are allowed, and they can be no longer than 1 inch. Whips are not allowed in championship classes. Dressage actually has more regulations for the safety and wellbeing of the horse than most other disciplines.
4. Working on hard ground. All trainers and show facilities take special care in their footing so that the horses work their best. A facility with bad footing - whether too hard, too soft, too wet, too dry - will quickly lose business. I have personally seen dressage riders trailer their horses to a venue, look at the arena, and turn around and go home. They were too concerned with their horse's feet and legs to risk competing on subpar footing.
5. Too much training in limited space. See the first subpoint.
6. Too many unqualified teachers and trainers. The USDF has a medal program, a method of certification, and a way to see past scores by rider or by horse. I, personally, would never go to a dressage trainer without a USDF gold medal, meaning that the rider has two scores of 60% or better from two different judges on Intermediate I/II and two scores o 60% or better from two different judges on Grand Prix.
7. Too many people trying to do what they do not understand and are not capable of doing. See subpoint 6.
8. The use of unsuitable horses for dressage/riding e.g. coldblooded horses or too heavy and/or too tall warmbloods. All horses are capable of at least up to the second level of dressage. Past that, some talent is required. I would never buy any horse who couldn't complete a training level test. Warmbloods in dressage are more refined than in hunters or jumpers; many are Thoroughbreds from the track.

Cross country: The USEF has rules on when a horse can be competed in an event. At the beginner novice level (CC fences 2'7" and pace ~11mph), a horse must be 4 years old. At the preliminary level (CC fences 3'7" and pace ~19mph), a horse must be 5 years old. At the intermediate level (CC fences 3'9" and pace ~20mph), a horse must be 6 years old. The fences really aren't large enough at the lower levels that a rotational fall is an issue. To even get to the upper levels, the horse must be mentally and physically ready for cross country. Injuries are rare, although well-publicized. While cross country prohibits horses younger than 4, reiners have a futurity that encourages horses to be competed in their 3 year old year - they must be started as late two-year-olds in order to be ready. Cutting horses have a similar event with the same age restrictions.

Saddleseat: A western horse has a completely different outlook on life than a saddleseat horse. I doubt I could give a reiner or a cutter a good ride, and I doubt you could give a five-gaited horse a good ride. The personality of the horse really has nothing to do with the question at hand. These horses are often, if not always, schooled in snaffles and only show in a double bridle. Mature horses can be worked in any situation by junior riders. I personally know a half-Arabian, half-Saddlebred who loves taking kids around the show ring. He saved someone's life last year by not letting her fall off when she passed out in the show ring.

Western horses: Ah, but you're focusing only on the showing of reiners and western pleasure horses. In training, they are sometimes sucked up into the bridle by heavy hands and spurred forward with sharp spurs. A good reining trainer does not need to resort to this, just as a good dressage trainer does not use rollkur. Excusing loping because the horses are fit is a contradiction with your points on cross country. If the cutters are fit to lope for hours, the cross country horses are fit to jump and run for fifteen minutes.

I have never seen a stock horse alive past 25, let alone competing. I have personally seen Saddlebreds do academy shows with 5 years olds at age 22. Eventers often compete until they're 15 or older, albeit not at the Olympic level. Hunters aren't considered aged until age 16, and many still do the 3' divisions well past that age. Brentina, dressage horse extraordinaire, wasn't retired until age 18. I ride a purebred Arabian mare who could still kick some butt in the sport horse arena at age 28. Right now on Dreamhorse, there are 13 reining horses older than 20 for sale; 13 cutting horses older than 20 for sale; and 58 western pleasure horses older than 20 for sale. There are 124 dressage horses older than 20 for sale; 36 eventing horses older than 20 for sale; 46 hunters older than 20 for sale; and 63 jumpers older than 20 for sale.
Debate Round No. 3


XenaFan13 forfeited this round.


ayla1016 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


XenaFan13 forfeited this round.


Let's take a look at the points and arguments brought up in this debate.

Reining: We agreed that good reining trainers do not abuse their horses. I argued that reiners wear big curbs and can be subject to abuse by heavy hands and unfeeling trainers. After this argument went unrefuted, I brought up the fact that reiners are started early and broke down early. My opponent stated that this was false, maintaining that reiners are started later than eventers and competed long into their 30s; however, a quick look at a horses for sale revealed that there are less than 13 reining horses older than 20 for sale on the largest sale website. We can conclude that reiners may not stay sound past 20, let alone past 30.

Ranch work: Past my original argument that most ranch work is fun and rewarding, but horses can be injured severely by it, there was no response.

Cutting: Many of the same arguments from reining were cross-applied to cutting. In addition, I brought up the fact that cutters are loped for hours before showing. My opponent explained this practice by saying cutters are very fit, and therefore loping is okay. Remember this point; it will become very important when I discuss cross-country. There are 13 cutting horses older than 20 for sale on Dreamhorse, further emphasizing the point that cutting horses do not universally last until they are 30.

Barrels/Poles: Like ranch work, my original arguments were ignored. I maintain that gaming horses can be very good without abuse, but at the lower levels with overcompensating riders, horses can be bullied, spurred, and whipped into running.

Dressage: Most of the early argument here concerned rollkur. While I cited FEI regulation, results from the Olympics, dressage tests themselves, and the training scale, my opponent refused to provide additional evidence. The lack of proof of rollkur at lower levels and of the acceptance of rollkur at higher levels is very damning for my opponent. The only evidence my opponent provided past the first round was from an incredibly biased source which criticizes dressage as well as reining. I refuted that source point by point in the third round, as well as an indictment of the author himself. Dreamhorse shows 124 dressage horses older than 20 for sale.

Jumping: My opponent contradicts herself in her argument from cutting and her argument for cross country. I maintain that due to the fitness and training of a cross country horse, the potential danger of running XC is greatly reduced. My opponent says that fitness has nothing to do with anything; however, she excused the practice of loping a cutter by saying that the horses are fit enough to handle it. My opponent failed to properly refute the fact that cross country fences are becoming less solid; that horses cannot be forced to do anything they really don't want to do; or that the horses are older and more mature than futurity horses in reining or cutting. There are 36 eventing horses older than 20 for sale; 46 hunters older than 20 for sale; and 63 jumpers older than 20 for sale.

Racing: My arguments from Round 1 were unrefuted. Judge only the arguments that Thoroughbreds are bred to mature quickly; that any horse can suffer the same injuries; and that the Jockey Club has the best injury reporting system and it might be that we just don't know that injuries happen in other disciplines.

Saddleseat: The arguments here boiled down to several important points, which I will review one-by-one. The best saddleseat horses are "game" - that is, they are hot but controllable, excitable but eager to please. That attitude is encouraged and prized in saddleseat, unlike in other disciplines where riders want horses to be unflappable. Horses are bred for disposition and truly enjoy their jobs. The second issue is that of shoeing. Not only are shoes carefully calibrated to suit a specific horse, they are removed during the off season. Turnout follows from shoeing; some horses can be turned out with their show packages, but some cannot and must wait until they are done showing for the year to enjoy 24/7 pasture board. The third issue was the bit situation. It is true that mature saddleseat horses are shown in a double bridle, and the shank on the curb can be long. However, the horses are worked at home in a snaffle. In the show ring, they ride mostly off the snaffle and the curb is only used to raise the head, tuck the nose, and lower the hip.

In summary, we can see that neither English nor Western is inherently worse. A bad dressage trainer is more abusive than a good reining trainer; however, a bad reining trainer is more abusive than a good dressage trainer. Therefore, I urge a vote in negation.
Debate Round No. 5
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Vote Placed by Ragnar 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: FF