The Canadian equestrian community is mourning the loss of Dianne Tidball, who died on June 21 at the age of 81, less than three weeks after her husband, George, who died on June 3.
Dianne was born in 1932, and in her early years, was in private school in England where she took riding lessons and fell in love with horses. Dianne and her young children moved to the United States to accompany George while he attended Harvard University. While there, Dianne discovered a new type of restaurant that served fast-food called McDonald’s. Dianne suggested to George that the restaurant be brought to Canada when they moved home. The first McDonald’s franchise was brought to western Canada in 1967 courtesy of the Tidballs. The family started a second restaurant franchise, called Keg (n’Cleaver), which opened its doors in 1971 in North Vancouver.
With their incredible forethought and business acumen, Dianne and George bought 26 acres of land, and built the original Thunderbird facility in 1973, which quickly started to outgrow its location. In 2000, the Thunderbird Show Park opened its doors at the more spacious location at 72nd Avenue and 248th Street in Langley, BC. The venue is now one of North America’s premiere show jumping locations, hosing FEI level competitions.
In 2009, George and Dianne Tidball: Thunderbird Show Park were inducted in to the Jump Canada Hall of Fame in to the category of Builder (organization) for their great vision, contribution and passion for equestrian sports in Canada having been ranked in the top three facilities in North America for the past three years.
David Esworthy, past president of the Canadian Equestrian Federation (now Equine Canada) and who was an official at Thunderbird for many years, said: “While we mourn the passing of Dianne Tidball it must be done in conjunction with her recently deceased husband, George. They were a team.
“It was Dianne who encouraged George to obtain the McDonald’s franchise for Canada. It was Dianne who managed the horse shows at the old Thunderbird site in Langley, and when that property was sold, it was Dianne that insisted that she and George buy and develop a much larger acreage, this at a time when most people would be thinking of retirement,” Esworthy said.
“Due to her vision, we now have Thunderbird Show Park, one of the premier hunter/jumper facilities in North America. Her vision is now a legacy being carried forward by their four children.”
Esworthy said it was not surprising that George’s passing “did not break up this team”.
“Dianne just moved on to join him. She will be missed by all of us in the sport and long remembered for the tremendous contribution she made to the horse industry in Canada and beyond. It has been an honor to have known her.”
Equestrian sport has been a family passion of the Tidballs for many years. Daughter Laura was a two-time member of the Canadian’s Olympic Show Jumping Team, their sons were avid ropers, and daughter Jane is Thunderbird’s President and Tournament Director. Dianne bred, raised and showed the first British Columbia bred AQHA Champion.