Jane Tidball and her team are preparing for more than 3,000 people accompanying more than 1,000 horses at Thunderbird Show Park.
She’s used to it.
This isn’t the first time the president and tournament director has had an influx of thousands ready to compete at the 85-acre show park.
With her team doing everything from creating jumps to putting up stables, she will be ready for the Furusiyya FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) Nations Cup League event on June 2.
“The key things we focus on are footing and customer experience,” Tidball said. “We ask all our staff to engage in the Disneyland experience.”
That Disneyland experience includes more than the friendly, helpful nature Thunderbird is known for on the circuit. The team here also applies the feedback they receive from visiting competitors. That means having two Spanish speaking staff to ensure feedback is heard from everyone during their stay.
“We’re not as huge as other facilities, there’s a bit of charm in that,” noted Tidball. “Any problem [they’ve] got, we’re going to solve it.”
Sometimes the problems can’t be solved in the moment. They are facility concerns, and Tidball takes it all to heart. She and the other owners (who are family) discuss the projects they want to take on each year in their annual planning sessions. This has led to improvements like the new GGT surfaces (German Geotextile Footing), a giant 41-square-metre presentation and score board, 1,100 stalls for competitors and additional in-ground fibre optics to enable live feed.
“We sit down and plan,” she said. “We want to keep this business going into the future, 50 years, 100 years. We’re constantly improving.”
This year, competitors are arriving from Ireland, Brazil, Canada, the United States and Mexico. While these riders have Olympic qualifying events in their own countries, each country only has one and Canada’s is at Thunderbird.
When asked why competitors from other countries would choose to compete in Canada, Jane explained, that many of them are on different circuits around the world to gain a variety of experiences.
“They’ll make a circuit of going to our FEI Nations Cup,” she said. “Some of those teams are already [in Canada].”
Jane attributes Thunderbird’s accommodating nature to her dad, George, who together with his wife, Dianne, founded the show park.
“My dad started in restaurants so that hospitality attitude continued,” she noted.
One of the biggest issues she witnesses is logistics. Each of the horses – and approximately 2.5 people who accompany each of them – requires transportation. That can be a mix of flights, shipping, and private transport.
“There’s tons of transportation going on,” she said. Yet regardless of when they arrive, hospitality remains key.
“We make sure they have their feed, their bedding, and all they need any time of the day or night,” she noted. “We become this amazing community.”
In addition to competitors flying in, officials and others associated with FEI join the herd of horse enthusiasts, which includes vets, farriers and those who keep things humming.
Even without the horses, Thunderbird Show Park, at 24550 72nd Ave., is something to see during a weekend like the Nations Cup. With the horses, and international competitors, it’s a weekend that can’t be missed.
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