She’s handling the reins of one of the premier equestrian show jumping facilities on the continent, but for Jane Tidball, it’s another day at the park.
The president and tournament director of Thunderbird Show Park – voted by the North American Riders Group (NARG) as the No. 2 show facility in North America behind Calgary’s Spruce Meadows – is carrying on the legacy of her parents George and Dianne, both of whom passed away in June 2014.
“My parents taught us to dream big, but be prepared to do the work to make those dreams a reality,” Tidball said.
“They also taught us to enjoy the ride, celebrate each victory and treat people who walk into your place of business as you would guests in your own home. It’s what my parents believed in and it’s at the heart of everything we do.”
Tidball will do whatever it takes to help make Thunderbird successful, with her day-to-day duties ranging from picking up garbage on the grounds to financing and strategic planning.
Her philosophy: “I never ask a member of my team to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”
She loves horses but leaves the riding to the experts in her family including her daughter Laura-Jane (LJ), who competes at the World Cup level, and her sister Laura, a former Olympian who has earned the top coaching designation in Canada – the EC NCCP High Performance.
Currently, Tidball is focused on a very busy August highlighted by a World Cup competition, which starts at 1 p.m. on Aug. 16.
“It feels like our August shows get bigger every year and this season is no exception,” Tidball said. “There will be some fantastic competition for our spectators to take in as we celebrate our inaugural Longines World Cup.”
The World Cup serves as a qualifier for riders looking ahead to the FEI finals in Gothenburg, Sweden, next year and is attracting competitors from Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Venezuela, and Egypt.
Bringing in this kind of world-class talent is a byproduct of Thunderbird not resting on its laurels, and continually looking for ways to fine tune its facility, Tidball said.
“My mother always said, ‘When people drive through the gates at Thunderbird, we want them to wonder what’s new and exciting,’” Tidball related. “I’m so proud to be upholding that philosophy.”
This year, it’s the George & Dianne Tidball Legacy Arena, which Tidball describes as a “new, state-of-the-art ring designed with technology that earned Thunderbird a government of Canada Scientific Research Grant.”
“It’s this commitment to staying at the cutting edge that earned ‘Tbird’ a spot among the top 3 facilities in North America as ranked by the North American Riders Group,” Tidball added.
And while Thunderbird showcases some of the world’s elite riders, it also serves as a platform for the next generation still learning the nuances of show jumping, according to Tidball.
“One of the things that we are most proud of is the inclusive, family environment that exists at Thunderbird. You’ll find everything from kids on ponies to amateur and World Cup competitors,” she said. “We created the Dianne Tidball Legacy Scholarship to support developing young riders and help them achieve their goals.”
There’s a balance between staying true to the traditions of the sport while driving venue improvements through new technologies, Tidball said, noting that the Longines World Cup is taking Thunderbird “further into the mainstream by creating an international World Cup league with 14 North American stops.”
“It’s an exciting time and we’re fortunate to have our local partner and presenting sponsor, Noel Asmar Equestrian, joining us on the big day,” she said.
August is traditionally the busiest month at the park, and Tidball said she and the rest of the Thunderbird team love the atmosphere the month brings.
“There are several hundred horses on the grounds, their people and more than a few dogs – it’s energizing,” she said. “The August shows are like Christmas for us and we look forward to it all year. The grounds are peaceful and quiet when we arrive at sunrise, revving up through the day to the excitement of a World Cup ceremony. We invite everyone to visit us and experience it first hand.”
Thunderbird Show Park has been a family business for 43 years and Tidball said it’s her honour to carry on the traditions.
“There’s something so beautiful about a horse and rider working together; it’s the thrill of the sport, but it’s become even more than that,” she said.
For the past few years, Thunderbird has had the opportunity to work closely with JustWorld International, an organization that is devoted to breaking the cycle of poverty and helping children thrive.
“Their passion continues to inspire us to make a bigger impact, both within the sport and around the world,” Tidball said.