Wellington, Fla. – April 21, 2016 – When Bonnie Kretchik headed down centerline in her Amateur Prix St. Georges class Saturday at the Gold Coast Grand Finale national show, her mom, Jeanette Kretchik, was ringside to cheer her on. But Jeanette was more than simply a devoted horse show mom: she was also one of Bonnie’s competitors, having wrapped up her ride in the same class just a few minutes before.
The Kretchiks began riding together when Bonnie started out in the hunter/jumper world as a kid, competing in the short stirrup divisions. Jeanette made the switch to dressage 10 years ago, and Bonnie got back into dressage just last year after some previous experience with the sport several years ago.
Even when the mother and daughter were pursuing different disciplines, horse shows brought them together: Jeanette would bring her dressage horses to school at Bonnie’s hunter/jumper shows and find a dressage trainer to take a few lessons while she was in the area.
“The horses have definitely given us a really great relationship,” Jeanette said. “I don’t think we would have ever been as close as we are if it weren’t for riding horses together.”
Bonnie recalls caring for horses alongside her mom on their farm in Pennsylvania.
“We’ve been doing barn chores and work for as long as I can remember – it was never an option to not do it,” she said. “If you want a pony, there it is, you’ve gotta go clean its stall. We had to get along because we had to get the work done.”
Bonnie is balancing her time in the saddle with her studies – she is pursuing her M.S. in exercise physiology at Florida Atlantic University – and her work as a trainer at Ultima Fitness in Wellington and a writer for a magazine based in Ocala, where she and Jeanette both lived for many years. Jeanette, a retired science teacher, now spends six months each year in Pennsylvania and six months in Florida.
“I started riding very late in life, in my mid- to late-30s,” Jeanette said. “I’d always wanted to, but I never had the opportunity to have horses.”
She added with a laugh, “I’m retired now and trying to ride dressage – the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life other than have children!”
The Kretchiks now rent a barn in Loxahatchee, giving them an easy commute to Wellington for horse shows. Bonnie trains with Amy Speck-Kern, while Jeanette trains with King Santacruz. Both mother and daughter pitch in to help with horse care and also credit Ashley Reis for her help managing the horses and the barn.
Although Bonnie’s schedule makes it difficult for them to ride at the same time on most days, they check in with each other every morning to coordinate their timing and barn chores, and they’ll sometimes call each other to chat following a great lesson.
Dressage isn’t the only athletic endeavor shared by this mother-daughter team. Bonnie’s passion for running marathons got her mother interested, and the pair competed in half-marathons together. While dressage and running may not seem like similar sports, Bonnie explains that her marathon experience contributes to her competitive mindset when she heads down centerline.
“I always compare dressage to the marathon because in the marathon so much can go on while you’re running 26 miles,” Bonnie said. “There’s so much preparation. You have to plan for everything. You could start out the race of your life, like you could start out the test of your life, and then it unravels and you can’t pull it together.”
She added, “In both sports, there’s only one winner, and 99 times out of 100, you’re not the winner. And you have to be at your own personal goals and not worry about what anybody else is doing. If I score a 65 on my horse and that was my goal and it’s last place, that’s OK because that was my goal. And that’s how running always was. It’s not so much the trophy. It’s whether I stayed on track and got my time.”
After generally competing in separate hunter/jumper divisions due to age restrictions, the Kretchiks now enjoy riding alongside each other at dressage shows. They’re more supportive of each other than competitive, although Jeanette jokes that she’d like to beat her daughter someday.
“Because we spend so much time together, and now I only see her six months a year, I’m grateful for anything we can do together,” Jeanette said. “You know there’s always somebody to cry with you when you’re bad and cheer for you when you’re good.”