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The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4)


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: May 1, 2023

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): L.J. Tidball

Word Count: 2,576

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: watching great riders; when riders hit their sweet spot; the organizations; SafeSport; training; post-secondary education; supply and demand for horses; routines and breaking habits a bit; the family history in the Olympics, the Keg, McDonald’s, and Thunderbird Show Park; George Tidball and Dianne Tidball; George and Dianne’s relationship; George as a UBC dropout and top of his class are Harvard; identifying talent in show jumpers; and final thoughts.

Keywords: Brent Balisky, Dianne Tidball, Eric Lamaze, George Tidball, Kimberley Martens, L.J. Tidball, Laura Balisky, SafeSport, The Greenhorn Chronicles.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Kimberley Martens in Holland noted that it, similarly, was a real pleasure to watch Eric on Hickstead. In the sense that, he had a really good feel and grace in riding. As someone with a lifetime in this sport at a high level, can you put into more precise words watching someone like Tiffany Foster, Eric Lamaze, etc., at that level?

L.J. Tidball: They make it look easy. When you watch somebody who is great at something, it doesn’t look hard. When somebody watches Eric win the gold medal. They would, probably, be sitting on their couches as somebody who has never ridden horse and say, “Oh! I could do that.” It shouldn’t look erratic or forced. If it looks like you’re hooking them in the mouth or kicking them with the spurs, to me, that is probably not the best in the world. When it is seamless and the smallest aid is making the biggest difference, that, to me, is the grace and the partnership that you see in people at the top. When it looks easy, they’re doing it right. 

Jacobsen: When do most riders hit their stride? Is there a range?

Tidball: I think, it is, at least, 18. Riding is such a hard sport. There are so many levels that you have to achieve to be able to jump the 1.60m height. I think it is rare somebody under the age of 18 is doing it. We really peak, in my opinion, around 30. Then you have enough knowledge. You have jumped enough courses. You have jumped against enough people and ridden enough horses.  It’s a sport of longevity. It is not a sport of aging out and then it’s done. It takes time. It is such a technical sport. You have to have done enough to know what you’re getting yourself into. 

Jacobsen: There are the organizations in the country’s provinces and the national federation. How is the support from these organizations and the federation for the younger riders and for riders from Canada?

Tidball: I think our federation does the best they can with the resources they have. Canada is an odd country. There is not a lot of money to support our athletes, whether a soccer player, show jumper, or ice skater. The funding is not very high. We get the podium funding when we have medalled, which, my understanding, has run out now – from when Eric won the medal, there is a timeline. There is only so much Canada has to give back to its athletes. It is really hard. There is some B.C. athlete assistance, which you can apply for. But that got hard during Covid. I had been in Florida, I applied and they turned me down due to Covid. [Laughing] It is tough. I look at countries like the United States. There is so much more funding than for us. I don’t know if there is a way to change that or to compete with it. I don’t know the intricacies of their financial statements. So, I really can’t get into it. But do I think it would be nice if there was more funding or more support? Absolutely.

Jacobsen: About 2016/17, there was a North American cultural moment, some European, of mostly men in mostly prominent positions with the MeToo movement and the TimesUp movement. These were bringing to light conduct of men in power. There was some justice, marginal in other cases, for victims. I am aware of SafeSport and allegations that have been made to some individuals. Do you think some of these outgrowths of things happening earlier in general culture have been filtered into equestrian culture?

Tidball: I think any governing body of any sport needs to have something in place to protect athletes that are being abused and mistreated. I think that is 1,000% something that we stand up for in Canada. Our governing body, my understanding, is that they come to you. You get to provide documentation. Then it goes to a committee for review. Then it comes back. In the States, my understanding is you’re guilty until proven innocent. I think in our society if an accusation gets put there and if it is not true, it is very hard to come back from that. Nobody will want to put their child in a barn where there was a known accusation. Even though, it was proven to be false. I think what we do in Canada is appropriate. We need to protect our athletes. I think it is a very real thing. I think at this point emotions are very high surrounding it. People are new enough to it. They are talking about it. It is going to bring awareness to it. As coaches, we need to be appropriate how we coach. There are tons of courses out there that you can take to help you as a coach to know what the best ways are of training and explaining yourself.

Jacobsen: Related to that question, oddly enough, when I reached to a lot of Canadian riders, a lot of y’all are on Instagram and Facebook, which brings me back to the previous question about social media and the response about being a coach. Does this era of social media and being a little on egg shells, in terms of they’re how walking, make coaching a little more difficult at times? 

Tidball: Like I said in the beginning, I think riding is fantastic sport because no matter what. When you walk into a ring with a horse, the outcome will be very obvious to you. You will either succeed or fail. If you want longevity in the sport, when you fail, you will work harder to do things right. As coaches, we have to present a set of skills to the riders. We have to give them the tools to succeed. It comes down to an individual person’s drive. When I send kids or adults into the ring and something doesn’t go right, when they come out, they will ask for more skills. Which I can help them with, so the situation can get better next time, it is not the harsh words of encouragement. Coaching has become softer. It doesn’t mean that you cannot get the same thing accomplished. 

Jacobsen: Brent in some prior interviews has noted post-secondary education can be quite useful for riders and trainers in the sport. You went to the University of San Diego. Do you think, for up and coming riding, that post-secondary education is an asset?

Tidball: I think education is always an asset. We have so many opportunities nowadays with the amount ot technology out there. Anything is able to be learned if you are willing to put in a little effort into it. Post-secondary education is amazing. To me, the best part about that is it gives you a better worldview. It is very easy in our equestrian sport to get into a bubble and to live only in that bubble. You don’t realize there is anything outside of it. We spend most weeks of the year riding, showing, competing, especially when you get to that top level. My mom went to Cambodia for Just World International. She loved what they were doing. That is a charity Thunderbird Show Park is still a part of; there are so many facets of life that we, as riders, can get involved in if we try. 

For my post-secondary education, I don’t know how much of that I have retained. I know the reading that I do on the weekly helps me have a better worldview and understanding of our economic situation and what is going on in the world. I think that that’s all a part if you are going to be involved in this business.

Jacobsen: A common issue – not every rider, but a number of riders – raised has been financial barriers to something as simple as a purchasing price of a horse. Mac Cone called it simple supply and demand. When a certain amount of horses are born every year, way more people want to buy, it raises the price artificially for the best horses. How is that conversation had within the community? What are some other barriers to entry at the top end of the sport?

Tidball: I think no matter what elite level sport. It is always expensive. Whether a car racing team or a sailing team, or the top tennis players in the world, I look at what their coaching and costs of travel are. It is similar no matter what you get to doing. The purchasing price of the animals adds to it, and horses definitely cost more than tennis racquets [Laughing]. I think purchasing prices of horses have gone up, and up, and up. You breed 100 horses and only 1 of them could make it to the top level. That horse becomes quite expensive. The average horse jumping 1.20m and under I think those are still within a normal range. When you are looking to purchase something at a national team level, I think those are elite athletes. When you look at how much you pay an NHL player, per year, well that’s kind of the same as buying a top horse.  You are buying an NHL player or an NBA player. The purchase prices are high for sure. 

Jacobsen: You are mentioning how personality-wise. You stick to your routines. Brent pushes you out of those 5%. I have noted certain superstitions or things that might be in some in the community. Do you note any superstitions? 

Tidball: I have a tendency to become very superstitious. I refuse to allow myself. When I begin to think a riding jacket is lucky or a show shirt is lucky, I will force myself to wear something else. I can’t allow myself to go down that tunnel being like, “Those are my lucky socks. What happen when those get a hole in them? My day is ruined.” I definitely have the ability to do that and to go down that rabbit hole that I force myself not to. 

Jacobsen: Is this common in the industry in your experience?

Tidball: Yes, absolutely, it is because we want to do well so badly. Like I said, even if something worked, I am the round ped in the round hole. If I morning flatted my horse, and getting ready for that class a certain way helped me, I will, probably, repeat the same steps. It is pretty easy to take it to the next level. “I wore those socks that day.” “I had that show jacket on.” “My necklace that my grandmother gave me.” Whatever gives you a boost, I think it is a dangerous avenue if you go down it too much and can plague you. I try not to make it a thing for me. 

Jacobsen: Another aspect, I forgot to ask. We talked about the Olympic team family history, the Keg, McDonald’s, and Show Park family history. What about before that? I believe there is some information around Shanghai. 

Tidball: My grandmother was born in Shanghai. She rode a little bit while she was there. It was when it was still under British rule. Her father worked for Lever Brother’s. She travelled back and forth to boarding schools in England as a young woman. During the war, my great-grandfather ended up in a prisoner of war camp in Shanghai. My grandmother, her sister, and my great-grandmother, fled and went to San Francisco. My grandmother’s sister had asthma. It got worse with it being so damp. So, they moved to the Interior and bought some land on Okanagan Lake, which turned out to one day become Sandy Beach Lodge & Resort. They had a vacation spot there, a hotel. So, that’s how that came to fruition. That’s how she met my grandfather. He was stripping the logs for the hotel. 

Jacobsen: [Laughing] How did that relationship develop in the earlier days for him?

Tidball: I think my great-grandparents hated him, pretty sure. He was not highly educated. He was working for a living. He wanted to be a pro baseball player.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Tidball: He was the ultimate twinkle in his eye bad boy. She was the beautiful, perfect, English rose. They made it work. They set on their own and they accomplished a lot of things. 

Jacobsen: What about their partnership was not a driver, but a major factor in being so persistent and successful?

Tidball: I think my grandfather was a dreamer. He, definitely, could always see the bigger picture or have these amazing ideas of what he wanted to do. My grandmother had dedication and work ethic. She could keep the wheels turning and make things happen. She was the woman behind the man. She made sure that he didn’t just have a dream and forget about it. She made sure the dream was to go and get it. That he pushed until he got it. I think that is what they instilled in us our whole lives too. You can have the dream, but you have to work really hard to get there. She instilled that work ethic in him. 

Jacobsen: Did the mentorship and training under Milton Friedman provide a framework for him to look at economics and business mindset?

Tidball: Absolutely, he was reading journals and financials. He was so business smart. He could look at one thing and understand it, where it would take most of us weeks of reading and researching to figure out what they were talking about. He could pick it up in a snap. He was incredibly brilliant that way. 

Jacobsen: He was originally a dropout at UBC. Then he became the top of his class at Harvard.

Tidball: Yes, like I said, he had my grandmother behind him and she gave him drive. She pushed him [Laughing]. He was incredibly intelligent. At Harvard, he was surrounded by teachers who inspired him to work harder. When you are inspired and respect that people that you are working for, you tend to be inspired. As a company, if you can inspire people to do their best, that’s a good thing. As a coach, I hope from the bottom of my heart that I can inspire the kids and the adults that I coach to be their best.

Jacobsen: How do you identify early talent in show jumpers?

Tidball: Athletic ability is important, but I think it is mostly about practice. The more opportunities to practice, the better that you will be. Even if there is talent, if you don’t practice, you want to get to the top. Everything is so technical nowadays. If you don’t have the skills to back it up, you won’t make it, even if you are talented.

Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?

Tidball: In talking today, it reminded me how much I love the sport that I am in. How many dreams I still have, I think that’s pretty cool. I am 45-years-old and can still have dreams as to what I want to achieve as an athlete. I remind myself how lucky I am. This is my passion and the path I chose. It is unique. It is pretty special. 

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, L.J. 

Tidball: You’re very welcome, Scott.





American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2023, May 1). The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4). In-Sight Publishing. 11(3).

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 3, 2023.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2023. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4).In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 3 (Spring).

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4).In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 3 (May 2023).

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2023) ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4), In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(3). <>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2023, ‘The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4), In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 3, <>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 3, 2023,

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. The Greenhorn Chronicles 43: L.J. Tidball on Great Riders, SafeSport, and George & Dianne Tidball (4) [Internet]. 2023 May; 11(3). Available from:


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