Laura-Jane (L.J.) Tidball was back in the stables at Thunderbird Show Park Tuesday morning, after soaking up all the sun and applause she could Sunday in Coapexpan, Mexico.
The Langley show park owner was among four equestrian riders who made up the Canadian show jumping team, and who rode to victory this weekend in one of the continent’s biggest horse competitions.
Admittedly she was still flying high on the adrenaline and shock in the days after the foursome won the Mexican Nations Cup.
“It was one of the best moments of my life, to date,” Tidball told the Langley Advance. “I was pretty proud of the outcome.”
Not only was this the first Nations Cup for Tidball, it was also her first time wearing Canada’s red coat. Plus, she was on the first horse to ride for Canada that day, and the first horse-and-rider team to kick off the competition.
“It was a lot of firsts,” she said while preparing to board a plane home from Mexico City on Monday.
“This was the first time I’ve been asked to compete on our Nations Cup team for Canada, and that was a huge honour for me and it’s something I’ve been dreaming of for a long time.”
She has had her sights set on riding as a member of the Canadian show jumping team since she was about six years old and getting under foot in her family’s stables at Thunderbird.
While she’s earned many titles as an individual rider since then, this weekend’s competition in Mexico was one she’ll never forget.
“You’re not just riding for yourself and your horse. When you walk in that ring, you’re riding for your country and a few other people who are putting their trust in you,” she said, pointing to her winning teammates Jonathan Millar, Keean White, and Jenn Serek.
Tidball grew up riding with members of her team, but acknowledged this was actually the first time she’s ridden with them, versus competed against them, in the ring.
“There was some great synergy out there,” she said, also crediting Langley’s own Mark Laskin – the chef d’equipe (the team orchestrator and person responsible for pulling together the best team available), for picking the perfect quartet capable of pulling off Sunday’s win.
While she didn’t have a perfect ride, Tidball was pleased with their performance, giving much of the credit to her mount.
“My horse performed amazingly well,” she said.
The Fort Langley rider earned her points in the ring atop her mount Concetto Son, a 13-year-old warmblood gelding that she purchased in Switzerland in January 2017 from Olympic gold medalist Steve Gurdat.
“We tried hard… I was pretty happy with the outcome.”
She arrived in Mexico two weeks early, giving herself and Concetto time to adjust and to ride in a few horse shows leading up to Sunday’s event.
The advance work, she’s confident, helped her when it came to her debut in the Nations Cup arena.
“I feel awesome…” she said. “I have to tell you, the experience as pretty amazing.”
What’s to come
There are only three Longines FEI Nations Cup events in North America each year.
One was held in March in Ocala, Fla., where the Canadian team made up of Tiffany Foster, Ian Miller, Francios White, and Jenn Serek won.
The upcoming Nations Cup happens here in Langley in early June. This will be held at Tidball’s own facility, T-bird, which hosts for the third time. They’re expecting to see five teams – Mexico, U.S., Ireland, Brazil, and Canada – once again vie for supremacy in the ring.
The Mexican competition this past weekend fit in between those competitions. That’s where the Canadian contingent – including Tidball – beat out second-place U.S. and third-place Mexico.
The triumph in the one-day, two-round event earned the Canadians a prize purse of 5.7 million Mexican Pesos ($387,000 Cdn).
Next up is the Nations Cup at Thunderbird during the Odlum Brown BC Open tournament wrapping up Sunday, June 3.
Tidball won’t know until a few weeks ahead of the event if she’ll be asked to ride again for the Canadian team on her own home court.
“I’m hoping that I will be able to, but it’s definitely no guarantee,” she said, noting if she’d had a clean ride in Mexico, she might have felt more confident of earning a place on that team.