By Ronda Payne/Special to Langley Advance Times
One might think Jane Tidball, board chair and CEO at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird), competed in horse jumping throughout her life.
It’s a natural assumption given her role with tbird, one of North America’s premier equestrian facilities.
Plus, there’s the family connection to the sport. Her sister, Laura, is a two-time equestrian Olympic rider and winner of the Pan Am Games and her daughter, Laura Jane (L.J.) has also ridden with the Canada Team garnering great results, like winning the 2018 Nations Cup in Mexico.
Her sister and daughter also work as trainers preparing horses for world-class events like those held at tbird.
Yet, Jane’s role at tbird came about much more organically. Not from her own riding experience, but from following two other family members.
Her parents, George and Dianne, were the driving force of tbird until Dianne handed over the reins to Jane in 2005.
The family has always loved horses. The beginnings of tbird were quite simple and based in childish longings.
On a family ski trip in Penticton, Jane and her siblings saw a horse wandering in a field. The kids fed him their lunches and pled their case.
George struck a deal with the horse’s owner and the gelding, Amigo, became part of the family. Sometimes he even lived in a garage in their home in West Vancouver.
“We’d all ride him around in West Van.,” Jane said. “My parents were just so good to us, they said, ‘okay we’ll move to Langley and get you all a horse’.”
Quarterhorses became the family’s choice of mounts for a while. Jane followed in her dad’s footsteps (or stirrups as the case may be) and rode Western style, until Laura found her life’s passion in jumping English style.
“That was the start of us all going into the English life,” she said. “My dad and my brother stayed in the Western. I rode competitively in western shows. This was before my sister, Laura, converted us all over to English.”
Laura embracing English riding was the starting point of tbird. Dianne began holding jumping events and the family grew into the sport as they grew into the business of tbird. George even built a Keg restaurant at the first location of the facility, which helped hone Jane’s appreciation of hospitality.
Jane had another skill and passion though, so she had to make a choice. She was on the Canadian ski team in the mid-1970s and elected to pursue skiing instead of riding.
“A horse can’t just sit there, it has to be ridden five days a week at least,” she said.
“I gave up the horses for being on the ski team. I ended up the Canadian champion on the year that I finished in 1977. I had my daughter L.J. in 1978.”
She thought L.J. would be a skier, as well. But she too was drawn to horses and followed that path. And while the family has a significant amount of experience in the sport of equestrian, Jane reflects that it isn’t horse jumping experience that has allowed her to carry on the tbird legacy as well as she has.
“We all have something in common; for the meaning that comes from any endeavour is: work hard, and strive for success while raising the spirit of sportsmanship, fairness, and respect for others,” she said.
Her experience as a world-class athlete, her love of family, and her desire to maintain the status of tbird as a top-tier equestrian facility has allowed Jane Tidball to surround herself with excellent people and solidify her mother’s dreams.
This is how tbird has become, and continues to be, an event facility anyone can enjoy, whether they’ve ever ridden a horse or not.
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