Posted July 11, 2019
When you’re able to create a profession out of a passion, you’re onto something. But when that passion provides the opportunity to work at one of the most elite and beautiful equestrian facilities in the world, right in the heart of Rancho Santa Fe, you are truly fortunate. Such is the case for Jason and Susan McArdle, husband-and-wife owners of McArdle Equestrian, a hunter/jumper training program the couple founded in 2016.
The family affair operates at the sprawling 50-plus acre Albert Court, Ltd. facility in the San Dieguito River Valley just beyond the north slopes of Fairbanks Ranch. The couple shares a lifelong passion for the sport — both rode as children and have committed their adult lives to riding and teaching others the beauty and intricate skill of equitation. Jason, an accomplished equestrian, is a multi-Grand Prix winner and six-time Young Jumper champion who has been riding and showing for private owners locally for more than a decade. At McArdle, Jason’s focus is buying and developing young jumpers into professional horses or ones that can go on to be sold, in addition to private training. Susan is a longtime riding instructor who previously taught in Orange County before moving to Rancho Santa Fe. Her energy is devoted to developing and training their students, whether they’re kids just learning to ride or adults honing their skills.
Of their relatively new venture, Susan says they most enjoy “creating seasoned successful junior and adult riders as well as the brand-new beginners to celebrate the little victories with.” Though her youngest students are about six years old, she says age eight is generally the sweet spot for beginners — they have the attention span, coordination, and discipline needed to learn — to lay the foundation for a lifelong relationship with and love of the sport. In addition to helping students with their own horses, the McArdles have two training ponies for their beginners. They recommend a minimum of three days a week to train, but the students usually want to be there five to six. “We have to send them home sometimes,” Susan laughs.
Seeing students enjoy and grow as riders is a true measure of success for the McArdles. “Watching them thrive, do well and succeed, and start to put everything together that they’ve learned over [time] is really rewarding,” says Susan, adding what really excites them is “when we see a partnership begin to click between a horse and rider, and they begin riding fluidly as a team instead of just following our instruction.” The couple gets a kick out of seeing riders even adopt some of their teachers’ idiosyncrasies unintentionally, too. “They start to actually physically look like you [in the ring]. They pick up all your mannerisms,” says Susan.
Though they’re eager to grow their teaching business, the McArdles are also mindful of getting too large and want to ensure they’re responsible for the training rather than having to hire out work to other trainers. Says Susan, “We really want to keep it small and mighty.” mcardleequestrian.com Deanna Murphy