Bethany Hutchins-Kristen knew Geluk HVF was special from the moment he was born. Out of her former Intermediate mare Bronte HVF and by the popular dressage stallion Jazz, “Geluk” had the bloodlines to succeed in eventing.
He finished well as a 4- and 5-year-old in the U.S Eventing Association Young Event Horse East Coast Championships (Elkton, Maryland) and went on to win the U.S. Equestrian Federation CCI2*-L Eventing National Championship (Lexington, Kentucky) as a 6-year-old.
After successfully moving up to Intermediate, Hutchins-Kristen and her husband, Nico Kristen, decided to start a family, so her competition schedule took a backseat. Geluk had some time off working on dressage and show jumping at home and hardly looked at a cross-country fence in 2018 when Hutchins-Kristen had her daughter, Victoria, and again in 2021 when she had her son, Nico.
So when 2022 came, Hutchins-Kristen was eager to get back to competing and made the SmartPak USEA Stallion of the Year award her goal.
She and Geluk competed 12 times at the Preliminary, Intermediate, CCI2*-L, and CCI3*-S levels to take home the win.
“The last four years have been very up and down in my riding,” she said. “Last year with competing, I was so determined to win Stallion of the Year, I’d be nursing my baby all night long, up every two hours, then up at 4 a.m. to get to the barn and get ready for the competition. Most of the competitions I went to I went on four hours of sleep. Maybe an hour uninterrupted, but you’re just so determined, like, I want my life back, I want my riding career back, and I’ve got this fantastic horse sitting in my barn. I’ve got to do this. But you also want the family, so you’ve got to do it all, and for this short period it’s going to be really tough, but it’s paying off now.”
Hutchins-Kristen grew up in Michigan where her mother, Marian Hutchins, enjoyed breeding warmbloods for dressage and eventing at her HVF Sporthorses.
Hutchins-Kristen got involved in Pony Club and then eventing, and started her own business teaching, training, and breeding horses, often in collaboration with her mother.
Geluk is a fourth-generation Dutch Warmblood homebred. His dam was a good jumping, even-tempered mare by Contango, who’s a popular jumping sire, and Hutchins-Kristen wanted to add some dressage blood. So, she bred to Jazz, who brought some hotness.
“Geluk is all that,” she said. “He’s a super mover, super jumper, super brain, but certainly hot enough for eventing. He was kind of the wonder child.”
After the pair won the CCI2*-L National Championship in 2017, Hutchins-Kristen knew Geluk had the talent for the upper levels.
“He won it from start to finish,” she said. “That was just phenomenal. Like, OK, we thought this horse could be something really special, now he’s just proved [it.]”
She started training with Karen and David O’Connor after years with Robin Walker and Buck Davidson.
She and her husband decided to relocate to Ocala, Florida, three years ago. Her business now has horses in training and a few sales horses she’s imported from the Netherlands, as well as a couple of broodmares and foals so she can create a pipeline for herself and sell a few.
Geluk hasn’t done much breeding as Hutchins-Kristen’s been focused on his performance career, but she’s excited about a foal born last year by him out of a Thoroughbred mare. She’s hoping he’ll start breeding more soon now that he’s proven himself at the upper levels.
Heading into 2022 and balancing two young children was not easy for Hutchins-Kristen, but competing locally in Ocala helped her balance motherhood and riding. When she travels out of state, she always brings her children, and her mother comes along to help, but for local events she’s now able to keep them at home with a nanny.
She was especially proud to compete at Stable View Oktoberfest Horse Trials in Aiken, South Carolina, in October where she and Geluk won an open Preliminary division ahead of several five-star riders.
“He was just dynamite around the cross-country,” she said. “It was a really good feeling that we could get out of our comfort zone and go to a brand-new place against a very competitive field. He was the lowest of all the Prelim divisions. That felt really good.”
They also spent part of the year competing in jumpers and at Fourth Level in dressage.
“We’re good friends,” she said. “I love him. He’s the highlight of my day. I know him so well. He can be a stallion of course, but he knows the rules, he tries very hard every day in his work at home, at competitions, at lessons. He’s always trying to please and do a good job. We have a great relationship. He knows I expect him to work really hard when I’m riding him, but the rest of the time he’s king of the farm and gets his own special turnout. When he gets his grain at night my kids like to sit on his back and pet him. He’s just great.”
Hutchins-Kristen is hoping to get some more good finishes at Intermediate and do a CCI3*-L in 2023, and her ultimate dream would be to make it onto a training list and represent the United States.
If you’re like most riders you’ve probably heard someone say something like, “Your last mistake is your best teacher,” or “if you’re doing everything right you’re doing something wrong because you’re in your comfort zone.” While I agree whole-heartedly with these sentiments, I actually prefer, “Equestrians don’t make mistakes. Mistakes make equestrians.” They make us bolder, braver, and brighter; but only when we develop a positive relationship with our mistakes and respond to them in productive ways.
Up-and-coming eventing athlete Tommy Greengard of Malibu, California, was named the recipient of the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation’s Amanda Pirie Warrington Grant for 2024. A current competitor on the U.S. Equestrian Federation's (USEF) Eventing Emerging Program List, Greengard has aspirations of representing the United States internationally.
Bethany Hutchins-Kristen headed into 2023 with hopes of earning the SmartPak USEA Stallion of the Year award for a second year in a row on her homebred Geluk HVF, and after a stellar season, including a top-10 finish at the TerraNova CCI2*-L (Myakka City, Florida), she took home the top prize with an 18-point lead.
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