Thunderbird Show Park president Jane Tidball is accustomed to welcoming world-class show jumping talent to Langley’s 85-acre equestrian centre.
Even so, she and the rest of her team are new to the Furusiyya Nations Cup, which will pit eight nations against each other June 3.
Hosting this competition – which is similar to golf’s Ryder Cup in which each rider represents his or her respective nation – is a huge feather in Thunderbird’s riding cap.
The event only comes to Canada once a year.
“We are absolutely thrilled about being the host venue for Canada’s 2016 Nation Cup,” Tidball said. “We have established ourselves as one of the top show jumping facilities in North America and now we have the long-awaited opportunity to showcase the top national team horses and riders from all over the world. Hosting an event of this level has been a goal of ours for a long time and we are very excited to see it become a reality.”
Now that Thunderbird has established itself as a Furusiyya Nations Cup stop, the heavy lifting begins.
Tidball and her team are ready – after all, they are well versed at hosting international show jumping competitions.
“I don’t think the planning ever stops. We run eight major show jumping competitions a year, and each of them involves a huge number of people coming together to pull them off,” Tidball said.
The difference with hosting the Furusiyya Nations Cup is that Thunderbird expects the competition to be a bigger draw for non-equestrian fans, due to the international prestige of the event, Tidball explained.
“In addition,” she continued, “it is the last opportunity for the Canadian team to qualify for the final Nations Cup in Barcelona. We’re looking forward to giving Team Canada as much support as possible.”
Thunderbird was voted the No. 2 equestrian facility in North America by the North American Rider Group in 2015, but isn’t resting on its laurels.
“Thunderbird is constantly growing to meet demand,” Tidball said. “We are constantly adding new facilities such as rings, stabling, dining areas, and tack stores. We’re striving to provide the best all-round experience for riders and spectators alike.”
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The founders of, and inspiration behind, the equestrian centre are Jane’s parents George and Dianne Tidball, both of whom passed away in 2014.
“Everyone involved with Thunderbird, including my family and I, share the common drive to continue the legacy started 43 years ago by my parents George and Dianne Tidball,” Tidball said. “We have a very close staff and we are all invested in providing a facility that promotes top sport.”
She added, “Hosting these large events such as Nations Cup and World Cup is an opportunity for young riders and fans to come and experience the full spectrum of the sport.”
For those who have never experienced show jumping before, Tidball invites them to come by and watch the best the sport has to offer on June 3, noting that the unique format of the event makes it all the more intriguing.
“The fun part about a Nations Cup is who it’s a team event. For those that are not familiar with the ins and outs of show jumping, you can still come out and cheer for team Canada,” she said. “There are top riders from all over the world riding for their country to qualify for the finals this year in Barcelona.”
In that vein, Tidball, herself, is an avid fan of the sport.
“What makes show jumping so exciting is that two athletes – a human and a horse – have to train and work together to jump 16 or more obstacles that are higher than a Volkswagen bug,” she said.
“Riders and horses develop such a strong working relationship that each knows what the other is planning before they do it, and they can communicate with each other with only the slightest movement that spectators may not even notice.”
“On top of that,” Tidball continued, “they’re doing all of this while trying to be faster than everybody else!”