DR. PIPER KLEMM/OWNER OF THE PLAID HORSE MAGAZINE / CANTON, NY
Interview by Miguel Wilson. Jan. 29, 2018
For many, the world of competitive horse riding is an obscure place. Some ask, “Do you race them?” and others automatically estimate the deep monetary pockets your breeches must possess. I found my way into the horse world through my father; neither of us having a lot of money. Quickly, I realized that yes, you do need funds to succeed in this industry, but more importantly, one needs a strong work ethic and thick skin. To find this ideology personified, one need look no further than Dr. Piper Klemm, a lady clad in plaid, kicking butt, and taking names.
With a PhD in Chemistry, Klemm, on paper, appeared to be the last person to take on the task of owning one of the horse world’s most widely read publications, The Plaid Horse. After graduating from the University of California-Berkeley, like a lot of horse lovers, her original interest and love for horses seemed to pull her back. Ever the business woman, in the beginning, she found a way to indulge her passion with a purpose. Through purchasing ponies, training them, and then leasing them out for a profit, Piper was able to find a way to satisfy the “itch” that everyone, in some way or another, gets in life. After finding herself spending more time at competitions and surrounded by horse culture, Piper stumbled upon an opportunity she simply could not resist.
There are two kinds of people: those who plan ahead and pause when faced with adversity and those that welcome life with open arms and take the reins. Klemm stands to be the latter. Those that take the reins also tend to yearn for a little more excitement. So as a young 20-something year old what would it be like to purchase a magazine? As Piper is apt to state, “Let’s find out!”
The future looks bright for this Bud. This year, Klemm has decided to be a catalyst for her own blooming, “For the first time in 33 issues, I’m putting myself on the cover! I’m scared, nervous, and have real anxiety about putting myself out there, but am excited because we’ve gotten such great response in market testing.” The name of the game is continuing to learn and grow, a two-step process that many overlook. Klemm talks of growing as a business owner, realizing the importance of balancing the line of delegating and doing. Juggling the responsibility of running a staff of 11, keeping advertising clients appeased, making sure deadlines are met, and enjoying newlywed life in the quaint town of Canton, New York, is no easy feat. Not to mention the fact that she does it all whilst traveling coast to coast unpacking her BMW coupe—that’s usually stocked with just about any Plaid Horse memorabilia one could imagine—at each stop. Her advice to young entrepreneurs is to “Be realistic about who you are and what you contribute to the market. I think most people struggle when they’re inauthentic or trying to be something they’re not."
You see, the horse world is truly cut from a different cloth. With long hours for those involved in the service end, and unusually high overhead prices, surviving in this industry can prove difficult. Nonetheless, The Plaid Horse has found its niche as one of the most prominent outlets for all things related to the nation’s premier hunter/jumper community. Though Klemm purchased the magazine only in 2014, she and her staff have been able to bring it to the forefront of an industry that is evolving each and every day. With an Instagram following of more than 77,700, ranging in age from small children to senior citizens, it is clear this publication is here to say.
When asked how she would like to be remembered, Klemm paused. She had clearly never truly pondered this idea. After rolling the question around in the back of her mind she came to the conclusion that this question did not suit her. The fact is, she does not care about being remembered. She does, however, care about the state of media. Success to her, is helping to improve the education of her audience, and ensure that the integrity of the content she plays a hand in producing is accurate, hard-hitting, and not “fake news."
A quick study, Klemm has proven to be a true model for future journalists. Her unyielding ambition, that was cultivated after years of participating in the male dominated science field of chemistry, has rolled over to the politics of the horse world. Her magazine continues to butt heads with societal norms and holds The United States Equestrian Federation and United States Hunter Jumper Association accountable for questionable and heinous actions they have made in recent history. In a time where the rich and powerful have taken over the ruling of these organizations and are actively pushing to make the sport less accessible and more elite, Klemm and her magazine continue to stand for what’s right. The buck doesn’t stop there for this woman, she also believes firmly in feminism.
“Every human being should be a feminist. Being a feminist means to me that we don’t limit anyone’s passion, dreams, or experience for any reason beyond our control. I aspire every day to support women, to support men who support women, and to educate people to be the best feminists they can be.”
It is easy, in time of great depravity and anguish in not only the world but also journalism, to be lost in the jargon and tomfoolery. People like Piper Klemm are a testament to the importance of living one’s own truth. She stands up for her people and never backs down from a challenge. Her grassroots approach, gathering young talent and cultivating them to be strong individuals in whatever facet of life they decide to travel, is a prime example that the “work” starts in your own yard. A better world is achievable, nay, inevitable if everyone pulls their own weight. At the end of the day, after providing countless opportunities for our future journalists, lawyers, and yes, even chemists, Klemm, ever the one to shy away from adulation, only asks that interns and mentees go out and pay it forward; a true mark of her character.