Tall in the Saddle

Austin Kiplinger, chair of the International Horse Show, talks about his days as a cowboy,Washington’s horse culture, and his Hollywood moment.

By: Denise Kersten Wills

Austin Kiplinger, the money-management publisher, is chair of the Washington International Horse Show, which runs October 21 through 26 at Verizon Center. The competition, now in its 50th year, features jumping, dressage, and other events.

Kiplinger, 90, lives on a horse farm in Seneca, Maryland.

What’s your favorite story from the horse show?

We had a streaker one year. He was riding like the wind. He took a jump and then rode out. I kept thinking, “I hope he didn’t hurt himself.”

How has horse culture changed?

Cities are bigger, and the riding is farther out. The Washington Riding and Hunt Club was at 22nd and P streets. People kept their horses there and rode into Rock Creek Park.

You grew up in Washington. How did you become a cowboy?

I was in high school, and my father was interested in keeping me out of trouble. He arranged for me to work on a ranch in Oklahoma. I did two summers, in 1933 and 1934. That was not only the Depression; it was also the drought. The Okies were fleeing Oklahoma in large numbers.

Do you still ride?

A little. I have a crossbred Percheron and a thoroughbred steeplechaser. He was winning big races, then pulled a tendon. The standard procedure is to put the horse down, but I said, “Send him to me.”

Would you like to see more young people ride?

Unbeknownst to many people, horse sports are thriving. The Washington Post recently decided to cut back its coverage of horse sports. I think that’s a bad editorial judgment.

How much did the movie Seabiscuit stoke interest in horses?

I’m so glad you asked. I was in the movie! You were supposed to dress in the costume of the 1930s. I went to the wardrobe mistress and asked her what I needed. She said, “You’re perfect! Where did you get that?” I said, “Right out of my closet.”

This article first appeared in the October 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here.