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The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2)













Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: January 1, 2014

Web Domain: 

Location: Fort Langley, Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Journal: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Journal Founding: August 2, 2012

Frequency: Three (3) Times Per Year

Review Status: Non-Peer-Reviewed

Access: Electronic/Digital & Open Access

Fees: None (Free)

Volume Numbering: 11

Issue Numbering: 2

Section: E

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 27

Formal Sub-Theme: “The Greenhorn Chronicles”

Individual Publication Date: January 15, 2023

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Deborah Clayton

Word Count: 2,250

Image Credits: Deborah Clayton

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations, after the interview.*

*Interview conducted January 5, 2023.*


Deborah Clayton is the Lead Buyer/Vendor Relations for Thunderbird Show Park (2017-Present). She has been the Retail Store Manager for Tbird Clothing Co., a freelance designer, Sole Proprietor/Head Buyer/Designer/Merchandiser of PuddleJumpers Fine Children’s Clothing, Designer for Cutting Edge Designs, a professional model for BIP Daisho/Excel Models, Senior Customer Service Representative for Alders International Duty Free, a fashion consultant for Cactus. She is a graduate of KPU’s Fashion/Apparel Design program. Clayton discusses:

Keywords: Big Ben, Deborah Clayton, Diane Tidball, equestrianism, equitation, Eric Lamaze, F1, Fort Langley, George Tidball, Grand Prairie, Hickstead, hunters, Ian Millar, Kimberley Martens, Longines Ranking, Montreal, Pine-Sol, racing, Show Park, Stanley Park, Thermal, Thunderbird Show Park, vet, Wellington.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: If you know, how does this compare to other domains of equestrianism, equitation, racing, or hunters, there will be subtle differences. There will be obvious differences between trail rides and carriage tours versus show jumping, but there might be subtler ones when you compare some of the other disciplines.

Deborah Clayton: I don’t think it’s that different, Scott. You have to respect the animal. You can’t go on a trail ride and not tack them up properly and be disrespectful. You have to always respect the animal. It is interesting to see the high-level athlete’s love of a good trail ride around Thunderbird. It’s the thrill, or just walking them, reining them around. It is really cool. I think you see that in your work as well.

Jacobsen: I didn’t realize, as a coupled note to what I’m about to say, the amount of work and thought that goes into the stuff around it: The landscaping, the gardening, the maintenance and cleaning work. Then there’s just the groundwork: Keeping the stalls clean, doing waters, doing hay, and then there’s all the riding, which I have no experience in [Ed. One lesson].

Clayton: Then there’re the vet bills.

Jacobsen: [Laughing] Someone showed me the vet bill. That’s a lot of money and a lot of sub-money when you add up the totals.

Clayton: We had a candle line this year. “Candles for Dirty Equestrians”, which was pretty cute.  It was made in Montreal. Beautiful candles, what do you think our #1 seller was? It was “Burn your vet bills”.

Jacobsen: I could imagine the second one being “Pine-Sol”.  

Clayton: They were like, “Burn your vet bills. We’ll take one.” It is not for the faint of heart, for sure. Do you know what else blows me away? Maybe, because my husband is in logistics, the movement of the horses. I will have someone who drove from Grand Prairie by themselves with their truck and trailer. Like, I’m talking a 30-year-old professional lady. She loaded the horse and drove it from Grand Prairie to Langley by herself, and unloaded it. You’ll see the horse haulers come in. They’re off to the airport to fly the horses to Mexico City or Europe. Logistically, it is incredible. That’s been enlightening. I didn’t know that that transport happened in such a big way. They have to be very careful that they are not injured in transport or get sick. There are so many moving parts at Thunderbird. I like to say, “We’re almost like a 5-star hotel. We want to give the best experience from top to bottom. A high-end hotel that people come to, for two weeks, with their horses.” We’re always trying to make improvements. The food is high quality. The footing for the horses is high quality. The stabling is high quality. The first priority for Thunderbird is always the horses – #1. Then the other stuff is additional to the experience. If people didn’t like it, they wouldn’t be coming back.

Jacobsen: I feel as though the fun that people have at Thunderbird Show Park is in light of the fact that much of the rest of the time off, when they are not competing, is 6 or 7 days a week. Long, hard work, that takes a toll on people. Emotionally, people get tired, get frustrated. It is not necessarily the environment. It is not necessarily the people. It is more-so the amount of work can get to people. So, the chance to get to go to a really nice place to show is a nice treat. There’s a woman named Kimberley Martens on the Longines ranking. She’s in the Netherlands with her husband running a farm. She would love to come to Spruce Meadows because, for her, it was a real treat to show at places like that, but she said it’s 10,000 Euros one way for one horse. It becomes incredibly expensive when you calculate that and all the other expenses. It’s one of those things. When they finally get to do it, which they’ve had a lot of delayed gratification to do it, it is an enormous treat for them because it is what they love to do.

Clayton: I have friends who have gone to Wellington in Florida or Thermal in California. Then they just rented a horse from someone down there. People find a way. There are costs. But, maybe, they are on someone else’s horse. Then they get the experience. That can happen. I think people are really generous with helping each other out. Not a sport for the faint of heart, for sure, it’s tough.

Jacobsen: That’s one of the myths; I’ve found. When I was doing, not interviews but, article writing on some of the sport and looking at different aspects of the sport in Langley, questions would arise. Then I would become a little curious about it. I tend to be a quiet person and intuit things, and try to reflect on it. I thought about it. What about the injury rates? It was hard to find governmental data on it, but very high injury rates. Obviously, you find more girls getting injured. It is just because more girls between 12 to 17 are in it in Canada. Mac Cone puts it down to the focus on equitation and hunters. But it’s hugely injurious because you can fall off, get bucked off, get trampled on. Anything at any point in time.

Clayton: They are making strides. Obviously, everyone is in a helmet. The safety vests that are inflatable that can fit under a blazer. I think they are very well designed and will become common. You don’t even see them on a person under a blazer. They protect your organs and your neck and back if you fall. It is like how in hockey no one wore helmets and now they do.

Jacobsen: Seatbelts in cars!

Clayton: Seatbelts in cars, now, players wear neck guards to protect the throat. I think it is coming, where they are just going to become standard because we saw a grand prix rider. She may have even won the class during the Summer when she had one on. That was not the norm at that level that they would be. That is going to start it, right? That’s a good thing, keep the sport safer. It is a very safety conscious sport. But it is an animal. That’s what I think is so brave. You can be well-trained, can have the right gear. Ultimately, that is an animal. It could be having a bad day. It is in a way that you’ve never seen. I feel it is as dangerous as F1 racing.

Jacobsen: 100%, that’s a common analogy. F1, NASCAR, similarly expensive at a high level, similarly dangerous, you’re right.

Clayton: Transporting the horses, you can lose a lot of money. But it is thrilling. Nothing is more exciting than when someone goes clean and wins the jump-off. It is grand prix Sundays and finals. They are exhilarating. If people haven’t come, they should come and experience it. Then they’re like, “When can I come back?”

Jacobsen: Things that I see. On the international stage, obviously, there are more men on the Longines Ranking. Typically, Western European men, but in Canada, we produce some of the best – in, fact the best consistently – women show jumpers in the world out of the 80+ countries that are part of it. We are doing something unique with regards to training young women riders into adult women riders.

Clayton: Tiff had an incredible year this year.

Jacobsen: Absolutely, so, certainly, this is more of an outsider’s perspective. It would be nice to see more women at the high end, so changing some of the systems in European show jumping culture and also seeing more balance in Canada. Very rarely do I see young boys riding at the 12 to 17 age range, you may have these boys who have an animal sense, a natural talent of horse sense, can ride on feel. The way it is structured, they are more attracted to things like baseball, soccer, or hockey as in your boys’ cases. I have not done a formal analysis. It would require a little more research and conversation. But I think it would be interesting.

Clayton: Our top athletes in the sport were Ian Millar and Eric Lamaze for decades, though. There has been a shift. They ruled Canadian equestrian for so many years. But, maybe, it is in cycles. I love that it is men and women against each other, head-to-head, because it is really about the horse. Whoever is on top of the horse, they seem to think it is insignificant, but it is relationships, ultimately. I like when riders like her have such a special connection with the horse and everything is working for them. It is really beautiful.

Jacobsen: A lot of people will talk about the pleasure of watching someone in their heyday, like Eric Lamaze in late 2000s, early 2010s, riding with Hickstead. It was a very smooth, easy, but fast and accurate ride. It was very clean.

Clayton: Ian Millar and Big Ben, everyone watched it. It was Saturday television in Canada. Everyone would recognize the name. It was special. We’re getting there with maturity. 50 years is a lot. Thunderbird has maturity with the history of the Park. We’ve had some really special moments. I am very excited to be a very small part of it. I am not a big part of it. It is really exciting.

Jacobsen: What do you find people do in the village? Do they walk and gander at things? Are they on their phones, mostly? Are they picking things up for other people? Are they gifting? What are some of the market behaviours?

Clayton: What we cater to in the village is if they have their food and drink experience, they have their technical apparel that they need or their tack; that they are gifting for sure. Sometimes, they are shopping to pass time for pleasure and connections, or social. Post-Covid, it was back to those lovely connections with people on the front rows of the shops reconnecting. Lots of hugs.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Clayton: Lots of reunions, it is really lovely, and plans made for later. People really do explore our area. Sometimes, they go to the island and down into Vancouver, up to Whistler. The whole coming to Thunderbird experience is really a West Coast experience. We try and facilitate through customer service. We will say, “Have you seen this? Have you been to Fort Langley? Have you made it to Stanley Park? Do you have time to go to Tofino or Victoria?” So, we have to be ambassadors. That is part of working at Thunderbird. You are helpful and an ambassador for all things. It’s good. We are going to try and add more food trucks and things as well. But that is part of the expansion coming later.

Jacobsen: Do you have any final or feelings based on the conversation today?

Clayton: No, it has been lovely. I appreciate it. I hope we can get, primarily, people excited to come to the Show Park this year. They can come to our website too, The information is there. They can shop our goods. They are designed to be worn in your life, too. I would say an elevated souvenir, but I don’t like the word “souvenir”.

Jacobsen: A keepsake, a memento.

Clayton: Yes. It is really cool. You will remember it fondly with your experience, so you will have an emotional attachment. We are trying to make something for this year to be something for everyone: men, women, children. Also, something to commemorate for the 50 years, so something you can cherish. Oh! I have the best t-shirt. You need to know this, Scott. It is going to be the best t-shirt because it is going to be a concert t-shirt vibe. The back of it is the year, like you would see concert dates.

Jacobsen: That’s like 1973? That sort of thing.

Clayton: No! I am doing this year. I am calling it the 50th tour.

Jacobsen: Are you going to have all the show names and stuff like that?

Clayton: Sponsors, names, making sure to include the George and Diane Tidball legacy, I thought it was essential, because it was our 50th year. “Tour” came up. So, you are going to want it. It is going to come in 2 colours.

Jacobsen: I will order one in each colour. Can I pre-order?

Clayton: Of course, I’ll hook you up.

Jacobsen: Oh! The hook-up, that’s good, for year 2.

Clayton: I am going to get black-and-white images of things past in the Show, then have them mounted as part of the display of the shop. The shop was due to look different. So, there’s a lot of work ahead of me. But it is all very clear. I am intentional in what I am doing. I have amazing help. We will make it really, really special.

Jacobsen: I would love to see some of the old pictures of the Colossus grounds one.

Clayton: I’ve got family. Laura in her heyday, and Brent. It is really cool. Jane has dipped into the archives for me. And I have them. I am excited to get started. Alright, have an awesome day and stay in touch, bye!

Jacobsen: Bye.






American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2). January 2023; 11(2).

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2023, January 15). The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2). In-Sight Publishing. 11(2).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 2, 2023.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2023. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (Spring).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (January 2023).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2023) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(2). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2023, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 2, 2023,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 38: Deborah Clayton on Being a Show Jumping Destination (2) [Internet]. 2023 Jan; 11(2). Available from:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, or the author(s), and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors copyright their material, as well, and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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