Let Go of the Reins
Recently, a friend in the horse industry told me that her anxiety during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic had escalated to the point she went to her doctor to get anti-anxiety medication. She is not alone. A survey conducted by the CDC (April 23-July 21) showed that symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder in the US rose from 35.9% to 41.8%. The survey data table included groups by race, gender, education, and by state. To put it simply: no group was immune to the mental stress the very existence of the virus has caused.
It’s easy to get lost these days. What was normal in February seems long ago and far away. Getting “back to normal” is unknown, and the not knowing creates fear.
I too have suffered bouts of anxiety during this time. I have worried about my 89 year-old mother, my significant other, siblings, dogs, horses, chickens, all aspects of my business, toilet paper, and the future.
I had difficulty sleeping and suffered physical effects like a queasy stomach. Thoughts in my head centered around “What if?” I felt helpless and lost.
And one day I just decided to let go… let go my control and need of control, just go with the flow, roll with the punches, take one day at a time, no expectations. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It simply was a matter of taking a deep breath and physically, mentally and emotionally letting go. Being absolutely clear on my intention… I surrendered to the Universe.
In that surrender I discovered calm, strength, and a creative intuitive river. I got out of my own way.
Examining the Foundations
Just as a house needs a strong and resilient foundation, so does a business.
Having let go of expectations and over-worrying, I can now devote more time to the foundation of my business. It allows me the space in my head and heart to explore and examine my core values, and those of my company. The exploration invigorates me and gives me energy to change things as needed. A business’ foundation needs to be rooted to something meaningful, and not just for capital gain. For all of us in the equine industry, that begins with passion and love for horses.
Within the foundation of a business lies the mission. In my mind, the mission is the pure essence of the company because it crystalizes the bigger picture. The mission is much more than the “mission statement.” For me, the mission is the energy of the company, or the Qi. The mission is what propels me out of bed in the morning, along with several eager Australian Shepherds.
The mission of a trainer might be helping every horse in the barn to be healthy and happy and successful in their job.
The mission of a coach or instructor might be helping each client become better horsemen, and reach their riding goals.
The mission of a horse owner can be the sheer joy of being with horses, learning from them, admiring and respecting them.
A Time of Creativity
When I am not trying to control everything, the space of creativity opens up. Creativity does not require artistic talent, it is simply a willingness to receive new ideas and see problems as opportunities and adventures. When the creative river is running strong, I am not so consumed by worries.
What Revs Your Engine?
It can be challenging when you don’t feel creative, and this is clearly a challenging time. Go back to your mission. As my father would say, “What revs your engine?” One of the gifts of the pandemic is time to evaluate what you find important, life affirming, and inspiring.
Bringing people together via video chats like Zoom or Facebook can nurture support and creativity. JJ Tate established Team Tate Academy during the pandemic, and has seen incredible success with the focus of training, teaching, and sharing.
Other companies like BioStar have utilized Zoom to reach out to riders and owners through a bi-monthly panel of experts on various topics.
Group member organizations like the New England Dressage Association (NEDA) are creating Know How Zoom Series for their members.
I would love to see hunter and dressage judges do something similar with pertinent topics and questions from riders.
Confessions of a Control Freak
As a business owner, I used to dutifully calculate and project monthly sales goals, number of units sold, etc. When I was actively training and competing, I had long range training and showing goals, short term goals, and daily goals. Every New Year’s Eve I would faithfully write down my year-long personal goals in a journal. Clearly, I was goal-oriented.
I admit, I never set goals for myself that seemed too “pie-in-the-sky,” such as making an Olympic team or having the biggest equine supplement company. My goals were for the most part realistic, attainable, and sometimes ambitious.
When I decided to let go, I gave up setting goal expectations. Much to my surprise, not having expectations for my goals has actually provided the space of “succeeding” beyond what my small mind could imagine. Goal expectations can actually be limiting because they impede on what is possible beyond our own range of thinking.
For example, we introduced a new product in July. I cleared my mind of sales targets, and projections. I had “no pictures” in my head of how many units would leave the shelves or stay on the shelves.
To my utter amazement, we sold more of that new product in two weeks than I could have possibly predicted or set as a sales goal.
Remember when you first started riding how if the horse got a little faster, you grabbed the reins harder and pulled?
Growing up riding thoroughbreds off the track, I learned that the more you pulled on a thoroughbred, the faster they went.
When we let go, we let go of our finger-clenched control on the reins. This allows us to make space for creativity, passion, living in the moment, gratitude, and trust.
Covid-19 times are challenging and yet they are also a gateway to opportunities, resilience, and the freedom that comes from letting go.
About the Author: With over 30 years experience in the equine and human supplement industry, Tigger Montague knows nutrition from the synthetic side as well as the whole food side. She started BioStar US in 2006 with formulas she created in her kitchen. Before she started the company, she was an avid rider and competitor with eventing and show jumping, until she got hooked on dressage in the late 1980’s. She has competed on horses she’s owned and trained all the way from training level to Grand Prix.