RANCHO SANTA FE — Jason McArdle appears to smoothly and effortlessly ride Elicole through a morning workout at Fairbanks Valley Farms. McArdle agreed that “when you have a good rider and horse, it makes it look so effortless, but it’s not – that’s our job to set up the horse to succeed.” And succeed they have, as Elicole is the 10-year-old mare that McArdle recently rode to win the Blenheim South Pacific Trophy, $25k Show Jumping Grand Prix.
Elicole’s owners are Bob and Pam Buie, who have been residents of Rancho Santa Fe for decades. McArdle trains and rides Elicole, as well as a handful of other private horses at Fairbanks Valley Farms, next door to McArdle Equestrian, which he runs with his wife, Susan. McArdle credits the Buies for hiring him 15 years ago and bringing him to Rancho Santa Fe. While 15 years may seem like a long time to maintain a successful working relationship, McArdle feels the success comes from the Buies’ desire to “always put the horses first.”
And how did he meet his wife? A handful of years ago, Susan McArdle, who was running her own equestrian business in Anaheim Hills, was looking for a horse to buy and was recommended to contact Jason. After meeting her, Jason knew that one day he was going to marry her. But he needed to get her to say yes to a date first. Persisting for six months, she finally agreed to a date, and they’ve been the go-to equestrian couple ever since.
The McArdles have their hands full for sure now as they have a 3-year-old son and a 3-month old daughter, plus growing their McArdle Equestrian business, located at the Albert Court stables in Rancho Santa Fe. They offer full training packages, as well as riding lessons. And if you don’t have a horse, they have a pony for the young beginner riders. Susan McArdle teaches the younger riders, and Jason McArdle will help the older ones. During summers, they offer a horse camp for kids.
While most have grooms to help care for the horses, he feels that for young riders “it’s really important to bond with their horses, not just come and go. It’s important for kids to learn to take care of them — graze, clean tack, tack up. It teaches responsibility. Watching the kids mature and develop and create a bond with their animals is amazing.”
Jason McArdle does like to keep the private show horses to a small group since he wants to get to know each horse every day and personally ride them. Occasionally, he will also train racehorses. And like horse racing, there are times horses can be owned by a group/syndicate. And also like horse racing, owning in a group helps owners share costs, and he said is much more fun as you get everyone involved in the thrill of the competition.
Competition is an integral part of the sport for Jason McArdle, as well as Elicole, who he proudly boasts is a “fighter, and tries her heart out each time” they compete. Elicole has been under his training since she was a 4-year-old, and they are a winning combo, as Elicole has already won multiple National Grand Prixs. Jason McArdle “love(s) to compete, but I love the bond with the horse.”
Jason McArdle has done pretty well for himself in the sport of show jumping, especially for a guy who wasn’t initially scheduled to get a riding lesson. His mother bought a lesson for his younger brother, but when it was determined his brother was too young, Jason McArdle took the lesson instead, setting in motion his future. Now, working and living in Rancho Santa Fe, he feels there is “no better place to live, people are great, weather is perfect, there’s beautiful scenery, it’s a lovely town. I didn’t know it was here ‘til I got here. And it’s a great horse community — there’s polo, dressage, trails, we go out and wave to people, and they slow down for horses here.”
Spoken with a smile, Jason McArdle reflects that with regards to show jumping, “I get paid to do what I love. It’s taken me all over the world, I’ve met lots of great people and been to lots of great places. Not too people get to be outside and do what they love every day of the week.” Jason McArdle seems to have found his dreams come true in the valleys of Rancho Santa Fe.
The Del Mar Fairgrounds is the location for many show jumping events. The Del Mar International Horse Welcome Week runs Oct. 9 to Oct. 13, World Cup Week is Oct. 16 to Oct.20 (Saturday general admission is $30), and the Season Finale is Oct. 25 to Oct. 27. Admission is free to the events, except as noted. Info at: delmarfairgrounds.com event calendar. Jason McArdle encourages new spectators to attend the events, because “anytime the sport can increase exposure, it will bring new riders, sponsors, and involvement.” Go look for him, enjoy a family-friendly event, and cheer on the horses — he says they appreciate it.