How Not to Get Lost During COVID

With the world in a strange place right now, BioStar Owner/Founder Tigger Montague penned a heartfelt piece on how those in the equestrian industry can stay true to themselves and let go during such uncertain times. 

Recently a friend in the horse industry told me that her anxiety during 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 of this virus.

It’s easy to get lost these days. What was normal in February seems long ago and far away.  When will we get back to normal is unknown, and in the un-knowing is fear.

I too have suffered bouts of anxiety during this virus. I have worried about my business, my employees, our customers, cash flow, raw materials, toilet paper, my 89 year-old mother, my significant other, my siblings, my dogs, and horses, and chickens, the future…

I had a hard time sleeping, my stomach was often queasy, every thought in my head centered around ‘What If?’ I felt helpless, impotent, a victim. I was getting lost.

Confessions of a Control Freak

And one day I just decided to let go. To let go my 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, a creative and intuitive river. I got out of my own way.

Examining the Foundations

Hard to build a house without a foundation, also hard to build and maintain a business without one.

In the let go, I now can devote time to the foundation of my business. It has allowed me the space in my head and my heart to explore and examine the core values of my company and to be re-invigorated by them. Or change them. A business’s foundation whether it be a training facility or a saddle company needs to be rooted in some way to something meaningful that is not just money. For all of us in the equine industry that begins with passion and love for horses.

The Mission

Within the foundation lies the mission, in my mind it is the pure essence of the business, of the job, because it crystalizes the big picture. The mission is not “the mission statement” as business consultants refer to. For me, the mission is the Qi, the energy, of the company. 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.

Find your mission and use it to help propel you through this challenging time.

A Time of Creativity

Because I am not trying to control everything, the space of creativity has widened and opened. Creativity is not only artistic (frankly my artistic endeavors are stick figures);  creativity is a kind of openness, an ability to receive new ideas and see problems as opportunities and adventures. And due to the creative river running strong, the worries don’t occupy a big space in my head so I am not consumed by them.

COVID is a time to be creative.  

It’s challenging when one doesn’t feel creative and COVID is clearly a challenging time.  Go back to your mission. As my father would say, “what revs your engine?” One of the gifts of COVID is the time to evaluate that which each of us finds important, life affirming and inspiring.

Bringing people together via Zoom Meetings or Facebook Live can be both supportive and creative.  JJ Tate established Team Tate Academy during COVID, and has seen incredible success with the focus of training and teaching and sharing. Group member organizations like NEDA (New England Dressage Association) are creating a Know How Zoom Series for their members. I was inspired by the digital space and Biostar took to Zoom to reach out to riders and owners through a bi-monthly panel of experts on various topics. I’d love to see hunter judges and dressage judges do something similar with pertinent topics, and questions from riders!

Being Free of Expectations

For years as a business owner, I dutifully calculated and projected 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 goals. Much to my surprise, having no goals, and no expectations, has actually provided the space of “succeeding” beyond what my small mind could imagine. Goals can actually be limiting, because they limit what is possible beyond our own range of thinking.

Case in point: we introduced a new product in July.  I literally cleared my mind of sales targets, and projections. I literally 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 goal-set.

In the Big Let Go

Remember when you first started riding how if the horse got a little faster you grabbed the reins harder, you pulled harder? Growing up riding Thoroughbreds off the track, I learned that the more you pulled on a thoroughbred, the faster they went.

The big let go is, in essence, the ability to let go of our finger-clenched control on the reins. By letting go, we make space for creativity, passion, living in the moment, gratitude, trust.

COVID 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.

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