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tbird: From rugby to riding ring

Leadership at tbird brings out the best in everyone, no matter the athletic background
Chris Pack, president and operations director at tbird, with his wife Jessie Pack and their son Wyatt. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

The Summer Fort Series, which has spanned much of August, is a variety of show jumping competitions at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird) that basically wraps up this weekend. While it has included a series of competitions at Langley’s premier equestrian facility, the biggest event this weekend is the $50,000 CSI** Paladin Risk Management Solutions Grand Prix happening Sunday afternoon.

In addition to various coverage about the events and local participation in the riding series, this time out the Langley Advance Times talks with one of tbird’s top leaders, offering a little insight into one of the players at the helm.


by Ronda Payne/Special to Langley Advance Times

There are often a lot of athletes at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird), both human and equine.

Chris Pack, the venue’s president and operations director, also has a past filled with athletics and competition; and while he definitely has experience with horses, that isn’t where he learned first-hand about the nature of competitive sporting events.

“My mom had horses. I guess I started riding when I was three or four,” he said.

“My parents bought a little ranch up in Kamloops. My mom always had a retired warmblood, which was a jumper and my dad had a few quarter horses.”

Though he never ventured into participating in a riding competition, he did take riding lessons from one of the best female riders in the world: Canada’s Tiffany Foster.

READ MORE: Langley’s Tiffany Foster ranked number one in the world

With that much equine background, Pack had the skillset to compete, but he chose rugby as his athletic force. He played for Canada’s Men’s Sevens team at the international level.

Horses obviously were, and still are, a keen interest to him. But as he said, it’s his and Jane Tidball’s (tbird’s board chair and CEO) exposure to world-class events outside of the equestrian industry that have made the difference at the show park.

“Both Jane and I come from different sports, but we did them at a high level and we’ve been to a lot of other high-level sporting events,” he explained.

“Most horse shows are run by horse-show managers, or someone who rode, or a trainer. They get really honed in on little details.”

Sometimes those little details may detract from the overall experience of guests at an event, Pack suggested.

There can be a sense of not belonging at the venue at some horse competitions, but tbird is definitely not one of those places. Everyone, regardless of their level of equine knowledge, can enjoy the horses and marvel at their power.

ALSO AT THE HELM: Her family lays the groundwork

“Other sporting events have different things than your regular horse show,” Pack said.

“Whether it’s technology or different people. I think it really helps us. We understand that we don’t have the comprehension that a trainer would have. We are trying to create the best competition platform for them and their clients to achieve success.”

This wider focus extends to the types of things offered during a championship event.

Music, facepainting, picnic spaces, and retail shops for guests are a for instance.

Immediate video replays, wifi everywhere, online supply ordering and onsite veterinary facilities for participants –it all contributes to the overall experience, he insisted.

Plus, there are those on the tbird team who round out the necessary knowledge to bring the finite details to the grounds for the competitors.

“We bring in really competent people who know more about those technical aspects,” he shared. “That mix is very successful for us.”

He takes great pride in seeing how each of the tbird team members works hard and celebrates their success. Pack said that leading up to a competition week is a culmination of the show park’s whole season.

“It’s a lot of work prior to each week,” he said. “Once the week is completed, it’s just very gratifying to see all of our staff and how they’ve succeeded.”

Pack concluded that for those who don’t have horses, one of the things that continues to bring them to tbird is the ability to watch a massive animal doing seemingly impossible things like jumping six feet high.

Experiencing the rider and horse partnership can be a magical sensation for those who know horses, as well as those who don’t.

RECENT: Britain’s Matthew Sampson wins $100,000 ATCO Cup at Langley’s Thunderbird Show Park


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Chris Pack is president and operations director at tbird. (Langley Advance Times files)
Chris Pack is president and operations director at tbird. (Langley Advance Times files)

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