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"Ground Manners" by Cynthia D'Errico reviewed by Carol Upton

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 6, 2012 15:06


Ground Manners

A Novel

By Cynthia D’Errico


Soft Cover, 2011, $19.99

Hard Cover, 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 978-1-4568-2394-8

Available at: www.groundmannersnovel.com or on Amazon 


Reviewed by Carol M. Upton


Learning that horses were butchered for meat left many people feeling raw and lied to,

like suddenly finding out that your neighbour had barbecued your retriever or microwaved your cat.

Like so many others, Yanne was clearly unaware that, whether for meat or other reasons,

horses were slaughtered at all. ~ Part Three, Chapter Four, p. 116


Ground Manners. A Novel is an innovative synthesis of adventure, romance and animal advocacy. 

Cynthia D’Errico has produced a compelling tale based on true stories about Canada’s horse slaughter industry,

the dangers of continuing to ignore coastline erosion, and which features an especially intriguing thread on how

le Canadien became both Quebec’s heritage breed and the National Horse of Canada.


Through the thoughts of Ausencia, a slaughter-bound polo horse, the opening pages introduce us to the horse refuge

run by animal communicator Skye Spahro and her daughter on Isle-Saint-Jean- Baptiste. 

The Institute of Nature Communications, like many horse rescues across the country, 

is dedicated to the care and rehoming of abused horses, including the rescue of those slated for slaughter.          


The horses narrate a good part of the story as D’Errico performs skillful shifts from the human to the animal point of view.

These shifts are reminiscent of those in other classics like Babe and Black Beauty, with that same brilliant seamlessness

that keeps the reader fully engaged.  The character of each horse is carefully delineated so that when Ulric,

the eternally calm Belgian draft says:  “I don’t like the look of things, Tessa,” his ominous tone ushers the reader

into the darkness of the book’s last half.


The themes in this book require the reader to confront the moral dilemmas often present in horse ownership and

attempt to expand the reader’s vision of horses.   Yet the darkness is never overdone.  The storyline is simultaneously about love,

heroes and hope for lasting change in our treatment of animals and the planet – indeed of the very ground we walk on. 

D’Errico’s writing style intimately involves readers in the lives of her characters, human and animal,

in such a way that their world becomes difficult to leave as the book nears its gripping finale. 


Ground Manners is the tale that horse lovers have waited for, but also essential reading for anyone intent on

creating a more harmonious relationship with our planet.

It will definitely raise public consciousness and is sure to spark debate.


Dreams Aloud Promotions
~ Linking your dreams to the world
Website:      www.dreamsaloud.ca












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geriatric horses | rescue

Nawaab: Stallion of Ahmedabad

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 23, 2012 12:45





Nawaab: Stallion of Ahmedabad

By Gina McKnight
Photography By Uzair Kasbati, Manthan Mehta, Nrupal Mehta

The commotion in the backyard at 5 o’clock am can be heard along the streets of Ahmedabad.  Nawaab, handsome five-year old black stallion of Anish Gajjar, is awake and ready for breakfast!  An anxious whinny resounds as the local farmer tosses pulas of green alfalfa over the wall into Nawaab’s stable; the syce arrives to place the forage into the appropriate feeder, along with Nawaab’s daily portion of Bajra (grain).
Nawaab is comfortable amongst the sounds and hustle of city life.  His stable is ideal; a large space for meandering throughout the day, a fragrant frangipani tree and a pink-flowering bougainvillea vine for daily shade.  At 15.2 hands, Nawaab towers the neighborhood children who are sometimes startled by his appearance as he gazes with probing stallion eyes over his stable wall.
Sired by Suraj and dam Lakshmi of the famous Manaklao Stables located forty kilometers from Jodhpur, Nawaab mirrors his ancestral lineage with his cognitive skills and signature physique.  He is the horse of legend.  A gazing star on his forehead symbolizes good fortune, giving him a distinctive appearance, making him desirable amongst Marwari breeders.
Wielding a confident and graceful countenance, he is brave and loyal, embracing all the characteristics of the classic Marwari; the mount of kings and warriors, the result of centuries of natural selection, environment and geographic.  “His disposition could be described as content, curious and an explorer. He's got one of the best temperaments; a little assertive, as a stallion should be, and always very friendly,” says Gajjar. 
Dedication and compassion makes a true horseman, which is evident in Gajjar’s articulate training and intuitive approach. Training is in process and the bond between horse and rider has been well established. According to Gajjar, “Nawaab has been bred by a very reputed breeder, Dr. Narayansingh Manaklao, but was never trained for riding. After bringing him home, I’ve done three sessions with him and he doesn't rear anymore or show any impatient signs. I really have my hopes set on this one. Looks like he'll turn out great!”
Gajjar plans to school Nawaab in dressage, an equine ballet in which the horse’s eloquent moves are orchestrated through an unseen channel of communication between horse and rider. Rooted in military training traditions, dressage will allow Nawaab to demonstrate his nimble and adaptable qualities. Nawaab’s genetically engineered structure for intricate maneuvers, such as dressage, ensures his success as a champion.
Gajjar affectionately strokes Nawaab’s neck and tickles his ears. His great admiration for Nawaab is evident.  Nawaab responds with equal affection and trust.  Gaining Nawaab’s respect with strong but moderate authority establishes Gajjar’s natural leadership role. It is a magical image of connected friendship between horse and rider that has been envied throughout time.
Nawaab and Gajjar can be seen on their trek from the stable, through the city streets of Ahmedabad, to the adjacent green fields for their brisk morning ride.   It is a pleasant ride, the result of expert care and training.  “The gaits are soft and he's quite sure-footed. I've brought him into a well collected ride. The trot and canter are both quite soft and comfortable,” says Gajjar.  When asked about Nawaab’s beauty, agility and expert performance, Gajjar states, “I don't have any magic in me; it’s just passion and hard work. Every day is a learning experience!”
Within the annals of Indian Mythology, the fascinating Marwari hold a prominent position. There is no denying that the Marwari image emits a powerful influence on equestrians around the world. The indigenous Marwari is one of India’s most precious resources; progressive, resilient and unique.  Currently, due to low census, Marwari are confined to India (with very few in the U.S.A., France and Spain, which were transported there before the ban); however, as their numbers increase, the export ban may be lifted.
As an equestrian and avid horse lover, I hope to find a Marwari in my stable one day.  Their versatility and etiquette would be a welcome addition to my valley. I am positive one of Nawaab’s offspring would be right at home in my peaceful Appalachia countryside.
Anish Gajjar is co-founder of the Equestrian Club of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India
Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from USA



Winter Wear

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 19, 2012 14:24


The Ditch Horse - Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   January 11, 2012 07:51

Memoirs of a Horse Owner


Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey!


The articles written for www.Horseownertoday.com  are a collection of my personal memoirs as a horse owner.  They are about my experiences and about my understanding of horsemanship.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of www.Horseownertodaycom.com  and in some cases, they do not reflect the opinion of the majority of horse owners today.  They are about my journey toward understanding a horse.                                    

   The term "ditch horse" came up the other day.  I've never heard of a "ditch horse".  I have heard of a "ditch pig".  And that isn't a real good thing to call someone unless you are looking for a fight.  But the term "ditch horse" ... now that was new to me.  So I asked what it meant.

I was told that a ditch horse is a horse that is rode in the ditch or perhaps along the side of the field near the ditch or down a trail.  Apparently a ditch horse isn't worth a lot of money.  It generally comes from unregistered stock and therefore it is unregisterable and consequently, it is of limited value.  A ditch horse doesn't have a lot of training neither.  It is not capable of performing advanced maneuvers and it's competency in performing even the basic skills would be questionable.

    This analogy was made in comparison to a show horse.  Now I am familiar with the term "show horse".  I didn't need a lot of prompting to visualize a well turned out horse demonstrating its skill in the show ring.  But the implied prejudice between the job performed by a ditch horse and the job performed by a show horse left me feeling a little dismayed. 

   I understand that a registered horse would likely sell for more money than an unregistered horse.  But then there are times when an unregistered horse is worth a good dollar depending upon how well it can do a job.

  The thought of riding down a trail on a horse that doesn't have a lot of training left me feeling down right scared.  I would have thought that a ditch horse ought to be fairly well trained.   You might need it to respond in a safe and willing manner if you were to find yourself face to face with a big old grizzly bear while you were on the trail.

    And then a really upsetting thought crossed my mind .... my horses might be ditch horses.  I don't show any more.  I ride through fields and along trails.  I don't necessarily buy expensive horses and not all of my horses have papers to prove their worth.  They are good riding horses but nonetheless, based on the definition, they might be considered ditch horses. 


    I couldn't help but wonder, what do you call a horse that is rode along a trail and across a stream and in the mountains and has never seen a show ring yet it is professionally trained, pretty good at arena work, registered and out of imported and syndicated lines and was purchased for a good dollar?  I have one like that.  I have been calling him my pleasure horse.

   Or what do you call a horse that is rode along a trail and in riding lessons and clinics and pony club.  She has chased cows, been roped off of, and can run a barrel pattern but she has never competed in show.   She is not registered and I didn't pay a whole lot for her.  I have one like that as well.  I refer to her as the family horse.

    The term ditch horse just doesn't sit right with me.  It seems too negative, too prejudicial.  Horses offer us so many different ways in which we can enjoy them.  I doubt that any one way of being with a horse is better than another.   I have a lot of respect for a champion show horse but I also have a lot of respect for a horse that can take a rider safely down the trail.  Both horses are doing their job and doing it well. 

    For the record, I am sticking to words like "trail" and "pleasure" and "family" to describe my horses.  That's the respectful thing to do. 


Copyright @HorseOwnerToday.com, for reprint permission contact info@horseownertoday.com 

Horse Man of India - Anish Gajjar

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   November 26, 2011 18:09

The Equestrian Club of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India

Introducing Anish Gajjar, Horse Man of India

By Gina McKnight

Photography Courtesy of Nrupal Mehta



          There is a place in India where the love of horses surpasses all understanding.  It is a place where equestrians and equines thrive in harmony, integrity and friendship. It is a community that promotes rider ethics and horse welfare; a place where riders convene to embrace and learn the wonders of quality horsemanship. It is the Equestrian Club of Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India.

          Anish Gajjar, Co-Founder of the Equestrian Club of Gujarat, Freelance Equestrian Trainer and Riding Instructor, is a seventeen year veteran on the equestrian scene. He is a charismatic entrepreneur, creating a firm foundation for one of India’s premier riding academies.  Gajjar is candid about riding and his passion for horses.  Through the years, he has enabled many to fulfill their dreams of horsemanship, while providing an outlet for his own ambitious ventures.

          The riding club is nestled on the outskirts of the Ahmedabad suburb.  The stables are clean and comfortable; the horses are grand and sleek, with a whinny now and then.  The smell of horses and leather permeate the facility.  As with any quality riding club, the horses are kept with utmost care. Each horse is stalled separately, without hobbles as is customary in some Indian stables.  The brick and mortar stalls are settled neatly in rows with adequate space for grooming, tack, and the frequent affection provided by riders and visitors. 

Gajjar arrives at the stables every day by six am for his morning ride.  Students appear shortly thereafter for riding lessons and coaching sessions.  Upon entering the riding academy, each student is evaluated as to their level of expertise.  The chosen horse is determined by the size and weight of the student; a quiet, gentle horse is given to an inexperienced adult or child, while educated riders can begin with a more spirited horse. Students range from children to adults, novice to intermediate levels.

Under the expert guidance of Gajjar, students learn proper equitation as well as respect and care for horses.  Students learn that horses can recognize anxieties and desires through physical messages and focal movements; that physical and focal cues act as communication tools to achieve the desired response from their mount.  The large riding arena is surrounded by mango groves and beautiful landscape.  The arena adjoins the stable providing adequate room to hone basic riding techniques as well as jumping and dressage skills for horse shows and competitions.

Gajjar not only provides clients with riding lessons, but also the opportunity for guidance with equine training, procurement, breeding, and nutritional/health management.  Working with local veterinarians and horse experts, Gajjar has formed a deep friendship and camaraderie amongst horse owners.

It is hard work, but as Gajjar indicates, “Hard work has no short cut and success is not achieved overnight.  One should not get disheartened at short term obstacles, but should focus on long term gains.”  His vision has become a reality; he is world renowned for his riding expertise, advocacy for the ethical treatment of horses, and, most of all, his mesmerizing, beautiful horses.

          If you have the opportunity to travel to Ahmedabad, stop in and visit with Gajjar.  He will readily welcome your intrigue and take you a tour of his facility, and maybe a quiet ride through the nearby mango grove and dry riverbeds.                .

          With a pleasant smile and confident stance, Gajjar states, “Tell me it can’t be done, and I will do it; tell me the goal is too high, and I will reach it; place an obstacle in front of me and I will soar over it; challenge me, dare me, or even defy me, but do not underestimate me - for on the back of my horse anything is possible.”




Follow Anish Gajjar and his beautiful horses on facebook!



Anish Gajjar - Horse Man Blog:



Nrupal Mehta - Photographer



Reprinted with the kind permission of

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from USA



Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   November 18, 2011 09:36

Memoirs of a Horse Owner    


                    Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey!


The articles written for www.Horseownertoday.com  are a collection of my personal memoirs as a horse owner.  They are about my experiences and about my understanding of horsemanship.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of www.Horseownertodaycom.com  and in some cases, they do not reflect the opinion of the majority of horse owners today.  They are about my journey toward understanding a horse.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

I enjoy watching the horses interact with one another in the pasture.  An interesting thing occurred the other day and it got me thinking about how leadership works in an established herd. 

It was a beautiful spring day.  Most of the horses were standing along the fence line, lazing in the warm sun.  The rest of the horses, including the yearlings, were nibbling on the newly sprouted grass near the pond. 

As I stood watching, my thoughts were interrupted by a ruckus near the pond.  One of the geldings had started chasing the yearlings around.  He was relentless and it caused me to wonder about the safety of the yearlings.  It was about then that the big bay took notice.  She motioned with her head toward the dun that was resting beside her. 

The dun left his resting spot along the fence line and slowly trotted toward the troublemaker.  With a rather matter-of-fact attitude, he separated the troublemaker from the yearlings and herded him around the pond.  After one circle around the pond, the dun returned to his resting spot beside the bay. 

Within minutes the troublemaker was back at it.  And again the dun slowly trotted out.  He separated him from the yearlings and once again he sent him off around the pond. 

On the troublemaker's third offense, the dun trotted out with a bit more determination.  He separated him from the yearlings and herded him toward the group of horses that were resting along the fence line.  As the troublemaker trotted by, the bay bit him on the backside.  That ended the ruckus in the pasture.

I couldn't help wondering about what I had seen.  As horse owners, we tend to read things into situations and come up with entirely wrong conclusions, sort of like when we believed our teddy bear could talk.  "Personification" is the proper term for it.  Yet it seemed to me that I had not read anything into this situation.  

As it turns out, a herd of horses has a set of values and laws that benefit the entire herd.   It is the responsibility of the lead horse to maintain the herd's values and laws.  This is done for the wellbeing of the entire herd.  The herd looks to the leader for support and direction.   The herd relies on her wisdom.

Conflict is usually between consenting scrappers who are attempting to increase their position within the herd hierarchy.  Often the lead horse will let them figure it out on their own.  Occasionally the lead horse will delegate leadership to another horse.  The lead horse steps in if the horse that is lower in the hierarchy is not able to resolve the issue.   And within the herd, strong friendships are formed and submissive horses are protected. 

It seems that people often mistakenly assume that leadership is based on dominance.  Rarely is that the case.  Dominant horses tend to be too reactive to be good leaders.  They are too emotional, too exuberant, too flighty and too extreme in their behavior. 

The herd leader is the horse that is best able to protect the herd.  The herd leader is often the most intelligent horse and the one who has the most experience and wisdom.  The leader is trusted and respected for her wisdom and her ability to keep the herd safe and secure. 

Horses communicate with one another in a meaningful way.  Leadership is maintained in a logical and honest manner.  It is consistent and "in the moment".   At times it is very subtle.  It is not based on dominance or emotion.  I suppose it could be said that the lead horse is the horse with the most "savvy".


Copyright @HorseOwnerToday.com, for reprint permission contact info@horseownertoday.com.


Bontje Workshop Update

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   October 28, 2011 18:58

Friday, October 28/11 -  Excellent first day of workshop with Ellen Bontje.  She is a very gracious clinician, completely focused on the horses best interest.

Ellen Bontje working with "Hallmark" and Jenneke Hoogendoorn, below Jenneke Hoogendoorn and "Hallmark" working on the rail


Gordon Dalshaug and student "debriefing" at the end of the day!

Jenneke and "Hallmark"

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Equine Emergency Rescue

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   October 15, 2011 12:16

HorseOwnerToday had the privilege to talk with MaryAnne Leighton, author of Equine Emergency Rescue.  www.equineER.com.  MaryAnne Leighton has a lifelong love affair with horses and the written word. She is a horsewoman and established author, features writer, editor and proofreader. She writes biography and non-fiction and her extensive experience in the horse world allows her to write with authority for equine publications worldwide.

MaryAnne has had careers in public relations, marketing and horse stud management. She bred horses for twenty years – both her own national champions and for studs that ranged in size from two stallions and twenty mares to seven stallions and four hundred mares. She has travelled extensively and, apart from horse-related themes, has written about subjects as diverse as the European Space Agency, the use of computer systems within an abattoir and the intensity of the darkness in the bowels of Mt Isa mine.

In 2006 she was commissioned to write Living the Legend: the Ian Francis Story, the biography of one of the world’s most accomplished horsemen that sells not only in Australia but through Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship in the USA.

MaryAnne’s home has always been a sanctuary for aged, infirm, injured and abandoned animals and her passion for the plight of horses that are injured or killed during rescue from entrapment lead her to publish Equine Emergency Rescue in November 2010. This book is proving a life-saver with members of Australian SES and RSPCA and horse owners around the world.

1.      Tell HorseOwnerToday.com about the events that started your journey to write Equine Emergency Rescue?
Back in 2008, in the space of only seven days I read two newspaper articles about horses in different countries that fell into septic tanks. The first died from injuries he received during his 'rescue', the second was able to be lifted out and survived. Apart from the fact they should not have had access to the tanks, I thought there had to be a better way to get them
rescuing horses from life-threatening situations, contacted all the people I could find and bought two books (Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue and Save Your Horse) written by American authors. Both are brilliant but I thought if I was writing my own book I'd do it a little differently.
When I decided to write my own guide for Aussie horse owners, equine vets and emergency responders, I was absolutely blown away by the support I received from around the world. Experts in the UK, Europe and the USA answered all my lengthy questions, helped me write guidelines for vets who are called to rescue scenes, and sent photos of training events and actual rescues. Michelle Staples, author of Save Your Horse www.saveyourhorse.com , very generously offered me her manuscript and photos, telling me to use them any way I wanted. I rewrote her book, added three new sections, changed the format turning it from a black and white publication to a full colour glossy book and added Michelle as co-author.
In November 2010 I invited American rescue trainer Rebecca Gimenez www.tlaer.org to Australia to launch Equine Emergency Rescue at Equitana (Australasia's biggest horse expo) and while she was here she conducted three one-day Large Animal Rescue awareness courses for owners, vets, RSPCA Inspectors and a few emergency responders.
Within two months, Equine Emergency Rescue had been taken up as the training manual for all Large Animal Emergency Rescue training courses in Australia and within 10 months the first print run had all but sold out.

2.      You are an obvious horse “lifer”.  I have read your on-line descriptions and pictures from Equine Emergency Rescue.  I am a horse “lifer” as well, growing up on the farm, with a clear understanding that if you have livestock you have dead stock.  I found many of your photos presented on-line difficult to look at.  Equine Emergency Rescue strikes me as being a difficult book to write, perhaps even a very emotional journey.  Can you tell HorseOwnerToday.com about the difficulties you faced researching, compiling and finally writing Equine Emergency Rescue?
I probably find rescues and the resultant photos less confronting than most people, due to my background. For 20 years I managed horse studs, with up to seven stallions, 400 mares and 200 foals born each year. When you work with so many horses, continually you are presented with challenging and gut-wrenching situations - after all, the horse is an accident waiting to happen and he is always more than willing to demonstrate his ability to get into trouble. My greatest difficulty was finding the money to publish Equine Emergency Rescue myself.
3.      What type of people dedicate themselves to Equine Emergency Rescue?
Those who, like yourself, are passionate about horses and even more passionate about keeping rescuers and victims safe.
4.      Tell HorseOwnerToday.com about your goal, your purpose that you wish to achieve by writing Equine Emergency Rescue?
My goal is to keep rescuers safe and prevent them causing serious injuries or even death to the animals they are trying to rescue.
Because we have been able to draw on the vast experience of animal rescue specialists in the UK and USA, I believe we will progress Large Animal Rescue in Australia much faster than they did. Even though Large Animal Rescue has been taught in the USA for 20 years, less than 1% of that country's emergency responders are trained in these techniques. It is dramatically better in the UK where two specialists from Hampshire Fire and Rescue trained in the US in 2003 and now, eight years later, almost every unit in the UK has an animal rescue capability and equine and bovine vets are routinely trained in LAR techniques and the technicalities of sedating and anesthetising a trapped large animal.
Within five years I hope we will be where the UK is and am pleased to say we are well on the way. I see my function as being to promote rescue in the media and support those who train our emergency responders and equine vets. Equine Veterinarians Australia is already scheduling regular courses for its members and their clients, we have held our first 'train the trainer' workshop, all RSPCA Inspectors (who are called to large animal rescues in this country) in the states of New South Wales and Queensland have attended training courses and now know what to do, and we have held awareness courses for horse owners, racing staff, stock inspectors, biosecurity officers and others.
At Equitana Sydney in November 2011 our first animal rescue team will demonstrate rescue techniques with the help of "Bruce" the training mannequin, we will talk about upcoming training courses and I will have rescue training equipment there for people to handle and buy. They will also be able to buy my book, Equine Emergency Rescue found at http://www.equineER.com


HorseOwnerToday.com Experiences "The Masters"

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   September 7, 2011 15:51

September 6, 2011

The drive from Saskatoon to Calgary for “The Masters” at Spruce Meadows has triggered a renewal within me.  A renewal of my love of Western Canada. (I love all of Canada but Western Canada is home).

 Perfect harvest weather, hot & dry.   The diversity and beauty of our western land is a wonder, a joy.   A very elemental is part of me is moved, is touched by this land.  The same reaction used to occur when I worked the oilfield, at -40 below, the wind screaming…there is a bone deep beauty in both.

How can one not be in awe of such sweeping fields of grass, of grain, of forest (okay the forest is north and east) knowing that deposits of potash, diamonds, oil and gas lie below that fuel our economy.

6 p.m.….WhooHooo I’m here, survived the “construction zones”, combines, grain trucks and rig moves.

There, completed my booth set-up and walked outside, sun is setting, flags of many nations are silhouetted against the sunset, spruce trees and old country lighting set the scene.  I close my eyes and smell the flowers, and underneath all is the smell, the feel of horse.  The atmosphere is one of hushed anticipation.

I am not sure how the Southland ****family has created such atmosphere.  Spruce Meadows is a work of art, not just the premiere show jumping facility in the world.  When you attend Spruce Meadows you have an “experience” as opposed to “attending a jumping show”.

Well the end of the first day at “The Masters”.  A slower day, a beginning to a week full of action, excitement and “the experience” of Spruce Meadows.  I made a game out of guessing who was a “first timer”, no big to pick those out of a crowd, they have the “oh my god I can’t believe it” look!







The King's Speech Review by Andrea Lawrence

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   August 21, 2011 08:20

Rock Star Weekly is featuring a review of The King's Speech written by HorseOwnerToday.com's verified vendor Andrea Lawrence, check it out!  Cut and paste this link...& enjoy.