Best of JN: Abigail McArdle & Plain Bay Sales

How can you transform your passion into your career? Abigail McArdle dishes to Jumper Nation about the opportunity that opened all the doors.

Three years ago, Abigail McArdle was presented with an opportunity that would change her life. After years of dedicating her life to riding, Abigail took a chance and transformed her passion into a career. Following on the heels of her win in the $10,000 1.40m class at the Palm Beach Open, JN caught up with Abigail to see how her life has changed since taking on the position as a sales rider for Plain Bay Sales.

An Inevitable Passion

Abigail grew up in the horse country of Barrington Hills, Illinois and it was her father’s love of horses that led her and her sister to grow up with horses just like he had. Her love for the sport caught on like wildfire and she found herself dreaming of bigger and better opportunities. “I always loved training and competing but it was during my last few junior years that I began thinking about how I could make a career out of it,” Abigail shared.

Abigail McArdle and her own mount, Cade. Photo provided by Abigail McArdle

Little did she know that when she connected with equestrian legend, Katie Prudent, at the age of seventeen she was opening up a door to the future of her dreams. “A few years later her son, Adam, started his business, Plain Bay Sales,” Abigail recalled. “Katie and Adam approached me about making a career out of riding the sale horses and working with Adam. Immediately I jumped at the opportunity!”

Now, almost three years later, Abigail hasn’t let a moment of this opportunity go to waste. While working with horses is innately challenging, she has found an immense amount of joy in working with the Plain Bay Sales team. “I have found the Prudents to feel very much like a family and the most entertaining part is working with great people and learning how to enjoy everyday when we’re working.”

The Career Changing Horse

Plain Bay Sales has imported some of the top horses in the hunter jumper world and Abigail has had the chance to ride and show many of them. Countless horses have left a mark on Abigail’s career, but none have been quite as special as Cosma 20.

“The horse that has really stood out to me in my career was Cosma 20. She was the first horse that Katie Prudent found for me and was the horse that really put me on the map for the bigger classes. She won my first open jumper and FEI classes and really taught me how to be a winner while staying consistent under pressure,” Abigail told JN.

It was aboard Cosma 20 that Abigail would accomplish one of her most proudest moments, winning the 2012 North American Young Riders Championship after putting in five clear rounds to seal the deal. That moment will always hold a special place in her heart, but she is quick to acknowledge that each horse she has had the chance to ride has shaped her career. “’I’ve been lucky enough to have wins at all levels on every sale horse I have ridden for Plain Bay. That in itself is very rewarding to take a quality horse and train it to become competitive.”

Abigail has been working hard this winter to show off the horses under her care and her hard work is evident in her placings. A few of her recent wins include taking home the blue in the Palm Beach Open $10,000 1.40m class and the 1.40m class in week 2 of WEF aboard Fanta Light B, 1st out of 91 entries in WEF’s week 2 1.30 class with Chaccadella, and claiming the win in the $30,000 U25 class at the National Horse Show aboard Chuck Berry.

Wrapping Up at WEF

The key to balancing a busy show schedule and multiple rides is proper planning, according to Abigail.  “A typical day at WEF starts around seven in the morning when I check over the horses and start on whatever rides I have before we start showing. We are lucky enough to have a farm very close to the show so we spend the day running back and forth between show ring and farm. If we have students we also will do lessons in between as the day goes on. We always finish the day making a list and comprehensive plan for the next day and going down the list and talk about how every horse was that day.”

But as WEF draws to a close, Abigail and the team at Plain Bay Sales don’t intend on slowing down. “Our summer plans are not finalized but, we will be staying in the states and most likely staying mostly East Coast and the Midwest. We will finish they year out at indoors in the fall,” Abigail shared.

Photo by Emily Reuter

While showcasing the sale horses is number one, Abigail still has her sights set on some big goals for 2018. “The past two years I’ve been 3rd place in the U25 final on our sales horses. I really hope to win it this year! I’m also focusing on keeping my own personal horse, Cade, in good form to keep jumping some Grands Prix competitively since he’s 16 this year. Ultimately, I would love to be more consistent in the Grands Prix and try to move up on the ranking lists as a long term goal.”

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