For the latest installment of our “In the Saddle” blog series, we’re featuring Nick Onoda, a dressage rider, trainer, and co-owner of Caldecott Stables, a boutique training and boarding facility that he runs with his wife, Grand Prix Jumper Christy Onoda. Nick recently undertook a massive DIY arena renovation at Caldecott Stables with the help of Premier Equestrian. Below, read more about Nick, his dressage career, his experience working with Premier, and why he thinks good arena footing is so important.
Tell us more about yourself:
I am an FEI dressage trainer and competitor. At the end of 2018, my wife, Christy, and I bought Caldecott Stables in Northern California. I was previously based out of Arroyo Del Mar in San Diego, home to Olympian Steffen Peters and his wife, Shannon. Prior to that, I was head rider to Stefan Wolff, the acting director of the Westfälische Reit-und Fahrschule in Muenster, Germany.
How is it being married to a Grand Prix jumper? Does it make you nervous when she competes?
Being married to a jumper is fun and so are the jumper shows. They are the only horse shows I go to where I am not a trainer, but just another husband on the sidelines with a coffee and a camera! When Christy first started showing, I was a complete mess. I would get quite nervous and I still do sometimes, but I am slowly being desensitized. Now I’m able to enjoy it most of the time. Christy is a great rider and I know she takes calculated risks, not insane ones.
Tell us about Caldecott Stables:
Christy and I live in a little house on our 7-acre horse property. We have a big barn with 38 stalls, all of which have runs attached. With guidance from Premier Equestrian, we recently built a new outdoor arena, round pen, and two turnouts, and we had the footing redone for our indoor arena. We also installed mirrors in our indoor arena—all in the last three years! We are also leasing a beautiful 20-acre field across the road.
When I was at Arroyo Del Mar in San Diego, I fell in love with their footing, all of which has been infused with Premier Equestrian ProTex Footing Product to create the perfect riding surface. We have a blend of Premier Equestrian’s ArenaAid Footing, ProTex Footing, and silica sands in all our arenas. Our clients, horses, and even the dogs love it. I have been lucky to work hand in hand with Premier Equestrian to build all our structures and the footing our horses work on.
Why is good footing so important?
Good footing is paramount in maintaining the health of our horses. Day in and day out, our horses are constantly moving on our surfaces, whether that’s our bridle paths, turnouts, or arenas. I think that by giving them good footing where they can’t slip or have too much concussion or strain from deep footing, we can truly protect the soundness of our horses. I can’t think of anything more important to maintain our horses’ soundness than good footing.
Tell us more about the recent safety upgrades and improvements you made to your facilities:
Our turnouts and round pen all have OTTO Sport Base Mats from Premier Equestrian and wonderful silica sand footing. I love the OTTO mats—they make it impossible for the horses to slip and they help absorb the impact. If you’ve been around horses long enough, you’ve seen a horse hit the base and slide on it in a round pen or in a turnout. It’s a nightmare. With the OTTO Sport mats, we never have to worry about that. Our horses can run and play in the turnouts, and we can work them in the round pen without fear of them losing their stability on the footing. I never have to hold my breath and worry when our horses want to play a bit and run around; I love that.
In both our indoor and outdoor arenas, we have a blend of different silica sands, and we have a mixture of Premiere Equestrian’s ArenaAid Footing and ProTexFooting. This mixture of textile footing products really works well with the silica sand we have available to us. We always have good cupping hoofprints, and you can tell by the way the horses move that they feel powerful and balanced working on it. The horses really love it.
You and your groom did all the improvements yourself, which is quite the undertaking. Why did you decide to DIY the project and how did you get started?
Yes, it is a serious undertaking! We decided to do it ourselves because we can’t afford to do it any other way. It was a lot of work, but it turned out exactly as I envisioned it. So, I couldn’t be happier.
I got started by talking to Heidi Zorn and the team at Premier Equestrian. She suggested Premier’s Arena Construction Plans to start with. Next, I found a heavy machine operator with a laser grader on his skid steer. We rented a big rolling compactor and got to work.
How did our Arena Construction Plans help you?
The plans were great and very detailed. If I had wanted to find a local contractor to do the work, I could have sent the plans to multiple companies and gotten bids. But because we did the work ourselves, the plans were a great template to work from and they helped to ensure all the layers in our arenas were the correct depth and grade.
How did Premier Equestrian help you guide you through the process?
The team at Premier was amazing to work with in building our dream arena. The staff are so knowledgeable; every step of the way, they could answer all my questions about materials, drainage, grading, etc.
The coolest part was Premier’s Arena Sand Analysis: I sent multiple sand samples to Premier, had them all analyzed, and then worked with Premier to select a specific blend of sands to get all the qualities we wanted. Ensuring your sand has the right distribution of particle size and shapes is so important, and Premier nailed it.