Fashion and Horses: Bringing Beauty from Pain

Being a single mom and a horse owner isn't easy, but one L.A. equestrienne knows it’s worth all the struggles.

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Fusing together her passion for fashion and horses, Cindy Gellersen created her dream job one accessory at a time. She resides in the heart of an equestrian neighborhood in Los Angeles, with everything she needs steps from her back door. Her design studio and handsome bay Thoroughbred, Khumba, reside in her backyard. Miles of trails, public arenas and the City of Angels is at her fingertips. The journey building her equestrian accessory company, AtelierCG, hasn’t always been easy, but Gellersen was always up for the ride.

fashion and horses
When Cindy Gellerson was ready to own a horse, she was connected with Khumba, a gentle Thoroughbred right off the track. Photo by Lori Ovanessian

Welcome to Los Angeles

Born and raised in Leipzig, Germany, Gellersen landed in Los Angeles for the first time in 2000 to study English. She returned to the Golden State for a second time later in the year to attend fashion school at the California College of the Arts. Afterward, she moved to Paris to pursue an internship with Dior. After Paris, she once again found herself back in Los Angeles in 2005.

A horse lover since she was a little girl, Gellersen had once stayed with a friend living in Riverside Rancho, a magical and historic equestrian community just 20 minutes from Hollywood. She still recalls that first drive when she discovered wide-open spaces and horses casually being ridden through the city. It suddenly became her dream to live there.

 

The Accident

AtelierCG was born in 2012 after Gellersen had a horrible riding accident. She was helping exercise a friend’s horse at Sunset Ranch in Hollywood one evening, and while riding back from Mount Hollywood, a set of brightly flashing lights from a mountain bike spooked her friend’s horse, causing Gellersen’s horse to panic.

fashion and horses
Photo by Lori Ovanessian

In a moment of fear, her mount spun off the edge of a steep hillside. The pair flipped over backward, and the mare landed on top of Gellersen, breaking her ribs and fracturing her pelvis, causing internal bleeding and other injuries. Lucky to be alive, the doctors gave Gellersen a bleak future outcome.

“They told me I couldn’t ride again, and I decided no, no, no I am going to ride again,” she says.

While Gellersen was recovering in the hospital, she made her first-ever Ride Holster Bag, a leather waist pouch that is now the most popular bag she sells today.

fashion and horses
The Ride Holster bag was AtelierCG’s first official product. Photo courtesy AtelierCG.

“My sewing is terrible, but somebody at the ranch asked me where they could buy it,” says Gellersen. “I found a leather factory, and they started making the first pieces. That’s how I started doing equestrian handbags.”

Prior to the accident, Gellersen had a company with her ex-husband creating canvas bags. Nothing serious happened with the brand, and she didn’t feel passionate about it.

Gellersen started writing down words of affirmation, including “stay strong” and “don’t let them tame you.” She was determined not to let anyone break her spirit.
“‘Don’t let them tame you’ is now the slogan of my company,” she adds.

Khumba

When Gellersen decided to really focus on growing AtelierCG, she gave up her leased horse in Hollywood to save time and money. She then realized she wasn’t happy without a horse in her life. Gellersen’s friends connected her with a racehorse trainer who offered to help find her a horse.

At the time, Gellersen was straining to make ends meet and pay the rent. She was a single mom struggling to balance it all with two young kids, Kaelen and Jade. But she found herself adding a horse to the chaos.

fashion and horses
The Appaloosa bracelet shows the stainless steel curb chain inspiration Gellerson had. Photo courtesy AtelierCG.

“I knew I needed a horse,” says Gellersen. “I needed a horse that had a big heart and that was good around kids. Riding is therapy for me. Being around horses keeps me grounded.”

When she first saw photos of Khumba, she thought he was absolutely gorgeous. He came straight from the racetrack without any formal training. The pair has come a long way since she purchased the horse with a heart on his head, and now Gellersen regularly rides her gentle Thoroughbred throughout Griffith Park.

Inspired by Tack

Inspiration for her chain jewelry came to Gellersen in the tack room. She loves mixing and matching chains and colors.

fashion and horses
The Dreamer necklace is one of Gellerson’s most popular pieces. Photo courtesy AtelierCG.

“It all started when I was cleaning my bridle, and I had a curb chain in my hand,” she says. “I loved the feel of the curb chain, so I had this idea that my jewelry should be stainless steel. I love the heavy metal. Gold and silver can break or bend, but stainless steel doesn’t.”

One of her most popular jewelry designs is the dreamer necklace. The mixed metal bracelets are also very popular. Gellersen is self-taught as a jewelry maker, and pieces everything together herself.

“It is challenging, but I don’t see it as work, because I really enjoy what I’m doing.”

This article about fashion and horses originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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