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The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (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): L.J. Tidball

Word Count: 2,568

Image Credits: Quinn Saunders

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

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

*Interview conducted December 26, 2022.*


Laura Jane “L.J.” Tidball has been the Manager of Thunderbird Show Stables, an elite hunter and jumper facility, for 20 years. She is a shareholder and contributing partner to Thunderbird Show Park, which has been voted in the top 3 equestrian show facilities in North America. For Show Park, she has been important in advising on top level equine footing, site development plans for capital improvement, and competitor scheduling for National and FEI competitions. She has been competing at the Grand Prix level since 16-years-old. Since winning the Equine Canada medal (1994) and competing on the British Columbia Young Riders’ team (1996), L.J. pursued equestrianism as a career with a fervent passion. Tidball shows multiple mounts of Thunderbird Show Stables and its clients in the hunter and the jumper rings. Through work from the pony hunters onwards with the assistance of Olympian Laura Balisky and Laura’s husband, Brent, L.J. has achieved many years of success in equitation, and the hunters and the jumpers. In 2005, she returned from a successful European tour to operate Thunderbird on a professional basis. She has been awarded the 2014 Leading BCHJA 2014 rider in the FEI World Cup West Coast League Rankings and the 2014 BCHJA Leading Trainer of the Year. In her spare time, her hobbies include baking, skiing, and snowboarding. Tidball discusses: a mammal that does not lie; the income generation; staffing an issue across this industry; common factors; horses; dangers of the sport; admire; not a natural talent; decompress; Brent; a second wind; the Longines; and the community feel.

Keywords: Amy Millar, baking, Beth Underhill, breeding, Brent Balisky, California, clientele, Emily Carr, Fédération Equestre Internationale, Ian Millar, L.J. Tidball, Longines, Mario Deslauriers, Spruce Meadows, Tiffany Foster, training, University of San Diego.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You were noting in the earlier part of the interview about reading the horses. In the sense that, you can read them. You can feel what they are trying to tell you. Are horses a mammal that does not lie?

L.J. Tidball: I don’t think they lie. I think horses are very truthful. They’re not duplicitous in how they act. They do not ‘tell’ you one thing and mean another. I really believe they are straight shooters. I think as horses come up through the levels. It is very hard to tell when jumping 1.20m or 1.30m if the horse can make it to that top level. I think that’s a special animal. I believe once you jump 1.40m and 1.45m, you see where they will go. You don’t think, “That one can jump 1.60m.” When they are a foal, you can have the right bloodline and training program. However, it still may not do that. So, I would say that is the intriguing part of our sport. To see these young horses come up through the ranks, make these goals for them, and put your heart and soul into what you’re doing, and see where they end up, it is a unique process that we get to do as equestrians and as athletes.

Riding is so unique that way. We don’t age out. There is longevity in it. There is a whole business within it. I make my income from horses. Most people doing sport for a living, are not making their income from it and around it. Riding is not a hugely sponsored sport. We make our income in training and buy-and-selling horses. That is pretty unique.

Jacobsen: Where do you see most of the income generation, from the breeding, training, and sale, of horses, or more from the clinics and the training of clientele?

Tidball: I would say it’s mostly from training clientele, clinics, and buying and selling horses for your clients. I think that’s where most of the income comes from, not when we breed horses. There are horse breeders who make a good living from just that, but it’s much harder. You would think of 100 kids. How many are going to be an Olympic athlete? That’s what you’re looking at with these horses too. Like I said, you can have the right bloodlines, breeding, and training program, you’re not guaranteed the result. To bring the horse along, you can breed it yourself, then you have it for 3 years before sitting on it. Those expenses build up over time. It is more of a passion on the breeding side for us. If something comes to fruition out of it, that’s just a bonus. Obviously, it is always our end goal, but it is very hard to predict. I love to think that each will be a $1,000,000 animal. But that’s pretty far fetched.

Jacobsen: Is staffing an issue across this industry?

Tidball: I think there will always be people who love horses. I think there will always be staff who come into our barns and our lives who want to work with these animals. They are pretty spectacular. We have amazing horses that we get to go on the road with. There will always be a niche of people who want to be a part of that. Yes, day-to-day barn work, as with the restaurant industry in our area, as with retail industry in general, is hard. Yes, there are shortages of staff. But like I said, because it is horses, I think there will always be people who raise their hand and want to be with them.

Jacobsen: I have read some articles of people who do not compete necessarily. However, they will ride and run businesses. Some free-floating cash they have; they devote it to their horse and their horse life. They will define themselves as a “horse crazy girl”.

Tidball: Right.

Jacobsen: What are some factors common that are part of the identity of the people drawn to that culture? I know young girls and young women are, certainly, a larger population for younger riders. Internationally, we tend to see more men at the higher end, European particularly. What are some common factors, other than horses [Laughing]?

Tidball: [Laughing] Yes. I think it is the love of animals. I have to put it down to that. We love animals. Also, you have to have an innate sense of feeling. You have to want to understand the animal. Like you said, to have that conversation, if you walk up to the animal and have no desire to know what the conversation is, probably, you are not meant to be in this industry.

Jacobsen: Right [Laughing].

Tidball: If you walk up and don’t really care… for example, I’m really allergic to cats. When I see a cat, I don’t want to have a conversation at all.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Tidball: I’m sure there are people who feel that way about horses. You have to want to be around these animals and have to have a little bit of awe towards them too. A 1,000 lb. animal will listen to you and will jump over obstacles for you, because you asked with your heel. It is pretty intriguing. To me, it always gives the feeling, “Wow. How does that work?” Even to this day, I look at it. I’m like, “If they said, ‘No’, it would be a ‘no’.” The fact that we have this relationship, that hey are willing to cantor into a ring and jump the biggest jumps I’ve ever seen because they want to do it with you. It is pretty awe-inspiring to me.

Jacobsen: What do the horses get out of this?

Tidball: It must be the same level of adrenaline that we feel. When you see a horse come out of a ring, they are hyped. When they jump a big jump, to me, it is the adrenaline that comes out of that; the will to be an athlete. It is easy as people to think that our horses have personalities like they’re human beings. I know that they don’t, but I think horses have an incredibly high sense of feel. When we have anxiety or are putting positive feeling behind it, or putting strength behind it, I think they can sense it and feel it. When we feel the adrenaline and the rush, I think our horse is feeling it. So, I think that creates the reward for them.

Jacobsen: The dangers of the sport. Those are very real. I have noted in conversation with people outside of the industry. They have a mythology around the sport itself. In that, it is a soft sport [Laughing]. It’s very dangerous. The injury rates are very high.

Tidball: Yes.

Jacobsen: It was a struggle to find national data, which was only available, as far as I know, all the way back to 1996 (Government of Canada) for a national injury rate list. So, it’s a very dangerous sport. Some of the best people in the sport have had serious injuries. Do you have any of those fears entering competition grounds?

Tidball: No. However, it is a dangerous sport. Like I said, you are riding a 1,000 lb. animal. If you are plagued by that, you should not ride. If being injured or hurt is all you can focus on, then you shouldn’t be on the back of an animal. Because what we feel goes into the animals, if that is fear, you are going to be transmitting fear to them. When you look at race car driving, skiing, or many other sports, not many do you think, “That’s not dangerous at all.” It is a sport. It is not a hobby. I don’t know many sports in the world where you can say the injury rate is incredibly low in the sport. I don’t think it is part of it. Sport is always related to injury. Of course, we try to mitigate the risk as best we can.

Jacobsen: Who do you admire in this sport?

Tidball: I would say I admire Tiffany (Foster) a lot. She has an incredible drive and an incredible kindness about her. I think it is one of the coolest things if you can get to the top of the sport and can take time to be kind and be true to who you are; it is something that I have always prided myself on. I think she is one of the people who I would look up to the most. She has made it to the highest level and maintained who she is and her sense of who she always was. She always has a smile, always has time, to give to people. It is important as we get higher up we become ambassadors.

Jacobsen: What makes her a great rider?

Tidball: I think all people who are great riders are great because we practice. Like I said to you, when I was in Florida and saw how much faster people were, and immersed myself in it, I think Tiffany is immersed in it and gets the practice. You need some talent and dedication. You can’t go practice and practice and think that will do it. She has talent and dedication and practices a lot.

Jacobsen: She has noted in some interviews prior that she “was not a natural talent” (World of Show Jumping, 2022). The idea of practice, practice, practice is akin to the real estate motto “location, location, location”.

Tidball: Yes, I agree. I think riding is completely a practiced sport. The more time you spend at a high level with multiple horses jumping, the better you become. It is like a skier who spends more time on the hill [Ed. Tidball’s mother, Jane Tidball, was an Olympic skier for the Canadian team]. A black diamond run isn’t so hard for you. If you are a beginner, if we put you at the top of the black diamond run, that is terrifying. The more time we spend at a high level, it becomes part of who you are, and second nature. It doesn’t take all the risk away. It doesn’t take all the danger away. But when you practice consistently at a high level, you become better and better at it.

Jacobsen: How do you decompress? I am aware of baking (Fédération Equestre Internationale, 2023).

Tidball: [Laughing] I find I work hard, honestly, I work long enough every day when we are at a horse show I decompress by simply being exhausted. I mean, baking is a fun thing that I do on the side. It really has nothing to do with relaxing. I would never bake, usually, around a horse show, because I simply never have time. I had a scholarship to Emily Carr, which is an arts school, when I got out of high school. Which I didn’t take, I ended up going to the University of San Diego, instead. I definitely have an artistic background. I find the baking and decorating is letting my artistic side come out. That’s, probably, the biggest draw to it, for me. I allow the creativity to flow.

Jacobsen: We talked about the advice Laura gave, and about George and Dianne. What was the advice Brent (Balisky) gave to you?

Tidball: Brent has been very interesting as a coach in my life. He always makes you feel like “I can do anything”. When you walk up to the ring and he says, “You got this”, it is as if it is ingrained in you, you know you got it. He is incredibly technical. He thinks outside of the box, constantly. As much as I say I am artistic, when it comes to riding, I am the round peg in the round hole and the square peg in th square hole. If it works, I will do the exact same thing that works every day. If I got ready for a class in the morning by flatting my horse, and walking the course twice, and then meditating before I got on, and I got a good result, I guarantee: I will do the exact same thing. I will not change the spurs. I will not change the boots. I do not change things well. If something works, I will keep doing it. What I appreciate about Brent so much, he gets me out of my comfort zone. He challenges me to not be the round peg in the round hole. He challenges me to try something different, to think outside of the box, to make something 5% better when I thought it was good enough. Without him, I think I would keep trudging along on the same path and not see the opportunities coming up beside me.

Jacobsen: There are some cases like Beth Underhill and Mario Deslauriers who had their career and had a second wind. Have there been any cases where it wasn’t a second wind, but it was simply a late start for a show jumper – where they started in their later 20s, 30s, 40s, and so on, and became reasonably accomplished in the sport?

Tidball: You know what. I’m not exactly sure. I don’t know anyone like that, to be honest. Everyone I know has grown up riding. I grew up with a great group of young riders, one of which was Amy Millar. Ian (Millar) took us to bowling nights when we all showed in Arizona. That group of us. We – literally – grew up on horseback.  Basically, that entire group of people who I know that got to national team levels rode when they were young. I don’t know the answer to that; I’m sure there is one.

Jacobsen: When I was looking at the individuals on the Longines ranking, there were only 90 Canadians on the listing.

Tidball: [Laughing] Like I said, there are not that many of us.

Jacobsen: So, an indication of the culture, of the sub-culture, that has come up. Everyone knows everyone or everyone knows of everyone, in some sense, with travelling all the time, seeing one another, seeing the names, and seeing the performances. How does that make the community feel, nationally speaking, for you?

Tidball: I think we have a really awesome community. When I go to a horse show, I just came back from California, you see people that you might not have seen for months at a time. It is such a high level of camaraderie. I don’t really know any people that are close to me in the sport who wouldn’t hope for the best for you. There is longevity. It is not like the soccer team where you’re a team one year and then off the next, where as long as you are beating the person next you; you’re fine. Riding is not like that. It is such a long-term activity, we encourage each other. My friends that I ride with, outside my barn, whether Tiffany or Kent Farrington. Whoever it is, they encourage. Kent has walked courses at Spruce Meadows with me, to help me out. You learn to appreciate each other. I think it is something unique in our sport. There aren’t that many of us. I respect that and respect the fact that we spend a lot of time together. Besides, it is more fun if we get along. Isn’t it?


Fédération Equestre Internationale. (2023). Laura Jane Tidball. Fédération Equestre Internationale.

Government of Canada. (1996, July 10). ARCHIVED – Injuries associated with… EQUESTRIAN ACTIVITIES: CHIRPP database, summary data for 1996, all ages. Public Health Agency of Canada.

World of Showjumping. (2022, September 22). Tiffany Foster: “If you look at my life, I should not be where I am”. World of Showjumping.




American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2). January 2023; 11(2).

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2023, January 15). The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2). In-Sight Publishing. 11(2).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (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 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (Spring).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 2 (January 2023).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2023) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(2). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2023, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 2, 2023,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 40: L.J. Tidball on Staffing, Tiffany Foster, Brent Balisky, and Horses (2) [Internet]. 2023 Jan; 11(2). Available from:


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