Canada loses equestrian industry icon

Canadian equestrian industry icon George Tidball died on Tuesday at the age of 83.

George Tidball, left, and Ian Millar at the 2009 Jump Canada Hall of Fame Gala.  Photo: Michelle Dunn
George Tidball, left, and Ian Millar at the 2009 Jump Canada Hall of Fame Gala. Photo: Michelle Dunn

Tidball was born October 4, 1930 in Carstairs, Alberta, and upon graduating high school became a chartered accountant.

Furthering his education at Harvard University in Boston, he became a successful businessman with strong vision. Recruited several times to work for various companies, he decided to venture out on his own and brought the McDonald’s family restaurant franchise to Canada in 1967.

His second restaurant chain was one he created called, The Keg (n’Cleaver), which opened its doors in 1971 in North Vancouver.

He and his wife, Dianne, bought 26 acres of land, and built the original Thunderbird equestrian facility in 1973 on a site that housed one of the first Keg restaurants.

In 1998, the first Thunderbird Equestrian Centre had outgrown the site and was closed. Plans were quickly put in place to redevelop the centre as a much larger venue.

In 2000, the Thunderbird Show Park opened its doors at a more spacious location.

The 85-acre Park features six competition rings, five warm-up rings, three indoor arenas, five covered stables, a golf course and riding trails, and hosts competitions of all levels and disciplines throughout the year.

“George Tidball will be greatly missed by equestrian community,” said John Taylor, chairman of Jump Canada.

“He was a driving force in establishing horse shows at Thunderbird and was a mentor to many. As a patriarch of a great family, his sense of humor was renowned. Jump Canada sends their sympathy and condolences to the Tidball family.”

In 2009, George and Dianne Tidball were inducted in to the Jump Canada Hall of Fame in to the category of Builder (organization) for their incredible vision, contribution and passion for equestrian sports in Canada which gave rise to the Thunderbird Show Park.

“Great families have great fathers. In my opinion the entire Tidball family is living proof of this,” said Craig Collins, Sport Organizing Committee chairman for equestrian events at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games and managing partner of Equestrian Management Group Inc.

“From the time of my arrival at the old Thunderbird, as an easterner of course, I was welcomed and treated by George as a member of his family. This is something I will never forget.

“George’s contribution to everything he touched made a difference in the most positive way imaginable.

“My own father had an odd old English phrase he reserved for only very special people. He would refer to them as a ‘good egg’. George Tidball was the very best good egg.

“Last night, in form George would appreciate, I raised a glass of our favorite Grand Marnier for a mentor and a true friend,” added Collins.

Equestrian sport has been a family passion of George’s for many years. While his daughter Laura was a two-time member of the Canadian’s Olympic Show Jumping Team, his sons were avid ropers and Dianne bred, raised and showed the first British Columbia bred AQHA Champion. His daughter, Jane, is Thunderbird’s president and tournament Director.

Equine Canada extended its deepest sympathies to Tidball’s family and friends.


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