Oconomowoc’s Scintilla Equestrian was created by a longtime horse lover



When Cheri Cierzan was a child, she knew where to find all the horses within a 15 mile radius of her Brookfield home.

“I’ve always been a horse mad kid,” Cierzan said.

She remembers the farm up the road being her “escape” when she was 8, reading horse magazines and admiring her sister’s friend who had a show horse.

“I was hit,” she said.

Every weekend, from around the age of 10, a bus picked up Cierzan from the Ruby Isle Shopping Center and took him for horseback riding lessons to Knollwood Farm in Hartland. Then she started to show.

Over the years, Cierzan has transformed his passion for horses into a successful business based in Oconomowoc.

Under the name Scintilla Equestrian, Cierzan designs and sells saddle riding show outfits for hundreds of customers who feature American saddle horses, Morgans, Arabs and Frisians.

“If the general person comes in, they’re like, ‘How is your store surviving? ”Cierzan said with a laugh. “If you don’t like horseback riding and you just walk in, you kind of think, ‘What’s going on?’

Cierzan’s clientele extends from Lake Country to Germany and Italy. His company’s Facebook page has more than 5,750 followers.

“I get out of bed every morning my feet hit the floor and I’m so excited to get to work,” she said. “Nobody wants anything other than that.”

‘I can really do this’

Cierzan, who graduated from the Gemological Institute of America as a gemologist, has worked in the jewelry industry in sales and management in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, and has also designed store-level pieces.

When she was about 23, she returned to the Milwaukee area to manage a jewelry retailer Bailey Banks & Biddle. She also went back to riding lessons and decided it was time to follow her “bliss”.

“I really needed joy in my life, but I was scared to go for it at first because I didn’t want to ring the joy out of something I was keeping virgin – which was the love of horses and the horseback riding, ”said Cierzan, a Resident of Oconomowoc.

In 2002, Cierzan began designing equestrian jewelry for riders and fans and would sell it at horse shows across the country.

“I finally took that leap of faith and said, ‘You know what? I can really do this. I can make a living with this,'” she said.

Sheri Brandl, owner of Equitate in Oconomowoc, is reportedly getting freebies for her Cierzan clients.

“She always had an imaginative style or a touch of the imagination,” Brandl said. “She was always full of ideas and would help me that way.”

In the first five years, Cierzan expanded his business to include horse show accessories, such as necklaces, crystal horse show number magnets, and sparkling whips or whips.

“I learned to never guess my instincts, and when I did, it propelled me into a business I’ve always dreamed of,” she said.

About 12 years ago, Scintilla Equestrian entered the clothing industry.

“I knew the quality and I knew how to put wetsuits together,” Cierzan said. “I think it came from jewelry design and the jewelry industry – that I knew what people liked.”

Academy and performance groups

Although Scintilla Equestrian offers pre-made ties, it is primarily a “customs house,” Cierzan said, and nearly 80% of its business is internet-based.

The company has its own models of shirts, vests, day coats, suits and riding pants. Six designers bring the creations to life and Cierzan creates the accessories and jewelry.

“It’s this concierge service, where you take the time with everyone to compose their look,” she said.

Scintilla Equestrian, 117 E. Wisconsin Ave., focuses on attire for academy and show riders.

Cierzan described academy riders as those who took courses to get into shows, but who may not own a horse. Riders at this level need a shirt, vest, tie, jogging pants, boots and accessories.

Show riders are “the next step,” she said, and must wear a daytime suit or coat with jodhpurs, depending on the division they show up in, a derby hat and accessories.

“I think (Scintilla Equestrian is) very valuable in this area,” Brandl said. “This is the country of the horse … I know that for our new customers, in particular, who have just started there, it is very nice to have a showcase where to send them to be able to see them and ask Cheri to help them. “

” What is it about “

When a customer walks in, Cierzan discusses color and fabric ideas with them, makes sure what they want isn’t already done in the area they’re showing up, and then takes their measurements.

“It’s like being on stage when they’re in the ring,” Cierzan said. “It’s not going to stand out unless they jump. Everyone wants this outfit that gets noticed.”

For the past eight years, Brianna Zwieg of Oconomowoc has taken her daughters, Zada ​​and Samara, to Scintilla Equestrian for academy show outfits.

“Girls are able to choose what they want and what fits their personality,” Zwieg said.

Samara, 12, loves cashmere, flowers and color, while Zada, 17, loves stripes.

“Every year we say, ‘I think this will be the best,” Zwieg said.

Much like Cierzan, Zada ​​”fell in love” with horses as a child, Zwieg said. Zada started taking classes at Knollwood Farm at the age of 7 and Samara took it about five years ago.

Girls typically do a handful of shows each year in the Midwest.

“If you’re ready and your outfit stands out, you’re going to stand out and grab the judge’s attention,” Zwieg said.

“You have to make sure their clothes have a good fit, look great and feel good to provide the best ride and feel the most confident when riding,” said Cierzan. “That’s the whole story.”

Unique color combinations set it apart

While Scintilla Equestrian works with “traditional” plaids, stripes and polka dots, Cierzan said her unique color combinations set her apart.

“The way you put a tie together with funky shirt fabric is why people were drawn to me initially,” she said.

Cierzan is inspired by other riders, the Pantone and bright colors, the season, the state of the world, emotions and trends.

Current trends are moving towards traditional looks with brighter colors, she said.

“It’s like fashion trends,” she said. “They change.”

Hundreds of outfits per year

Scintilla Equestrian creates “hundreds and hundreds” of sets every year, Cierzan said.

“Our busy season is the polar opposite of most retail businesses,” she said, with the January 1 kick off.

At first, it takes about three weeks for the costumes and coats to be made. By mid-March, when demand picks up, production takes about eight weeks. The region’s horse show season runs from late March to November, she added.

“Because we serve the whole country and we are a small store, it increases very quickly once the show season begins,” she said.

Custom shirt, vest and tie combinations start at $ 400; day coats and suits range from $ 899 to just over $ 2,000, she said.

Cierzan recognizes that the horse show industry can be expensive. To help make it more affordable, when a child gets too big for their shirt, vest, and tie, they can take it to the store. If it’s in good condition, they can get up to 50% off their next combo.

During the slower times of the year, Cierzan focuses on selling horse-themed products such as plates, drink glasses and t-shirts.

“She always has new and fun things for people to buy,” Brandl said.

“She never says no”

About a year ago, when Jeff Winton of Libertyville started showing off a hunting horse and needed a new hunting siege coat, he asked Cierzan if she could make it happen.

“The good thing about Cheri is that if you ask her for something or if she is wearing something in particular, even if she doesn’t at this point, she never says no,” Winton said. She said, ‘This interests me. If you work with me, let’s see what we can do together. “

The hunting seat coat offered by Scintilla Equestrian was royal blue with black accents. Winton said he had “a bit of sparkle” and really stood out on his dark horse, Dreamacres Sir Duke.

While wearing the jacket, Winton and his horse were named reserve champions at the American Royal National Championship Horse Show in Kansas City in November 2020.

“It’s a big deal,” Winton said. “Obviously it starts with your horse. Your horse has to be well trained. It has to behave in the ring. You have to have a feel for what you are doing and look decent on the horse. But there is a lot. good horses have shown themselves in many competitive events. “

The set takes into account that “overall look you’re trying to achieve,” said Winton, who showed horses until he was 18 and then returned 40 years later.

When Winton’s partner Jim Modica of Libertyville recently got a road pony and needed silk, they approached Cierzan again.

“Now is the second time we’ve asked about something that she wasn’t necessarily in her lineage, but was willing to do,” Winton said.

“She’s very excited for what she’s doing,” Brandl said. “I think it shows in the way she treats her clients. She goes about it. She really strives to create a good experience for all of them.”

On a horse

When Cierzan is not busy with business, she – unsurprisingly – can be found riding or driving horses.

Throughout her life she has shown saddle seat, hunting seat and western.

In September 2020, she showed off driving for the first time after taking lessons at Equitate with Brandl and Brandl’s husband, Mark Bodnar.

“She takes it very seriously,” Brandl said. “Cheri will show up at the show… She will live up to the occasion and she does a good job in competition. She doesn’t let the nerves get the better of it.

The Equitate horse that Cierzan trained and showed with, an American Saddlebred / Morgan named Rhythm Latte, had seen the ring “hundreds of times” for riding competitions, Brandl said, but it was also his first time while driving.

In their first driving competition together at Wisconsin Futurity at State Fair Park, Cierzan and Rhythm Latte won their qualifying class and championship.

“It was like being that little kid again,” Cierzan said.

Contact Hannah Kirby at hannah.kirby@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.

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