It’s 5:30 pm on a weekday and show jumper Alex Granato is still not quite finished up for the day. The phrase “finishing up,” of course, is relative in this line of work. Currently operating out of two barns in Palm Beach while competing in Wellington, Florida, where some of the best riders in the country base their winters for the 12 week show series at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Granato has become an expert at juggling his riding, training and show schedule.
Now, the 31-year-old Granato may have been competing in grand prixs at only 18 years old, but he wasn’t a leadline baby. In fact, this international rider didn’t get started in the saddle until he was 9. Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where there wasn’t really a show season in the winters, Granato would take lessons, but didn’t travel very often to other shows beyond the local circuit. But, geography wasn’t going to stand in his way, and at 17, he moved to Colorado to focus on his riding – even completing his senior year online so that he would be able to travel and show. “I was really able to use this time to focus on my horsemanship knowing this is what I wanted to do professionally,” said Granato.
So what does a day in the life of this successful show jumper look like? Well, when you have everything in your barn from dwarf rescue minis to seasoned grand prix horses, the days get a little hectic. Granato and his team headed to Florida, like many other ridres, in November and set up before the show season in Wellington officially kicked off in January. Now, in week 9 of showing (out of the 12), things are just as hectic as ever.
Plans for the next day often begin with the team of grooms, managers, working students, owners, riders and trainers gathering together the evening before to go over the schedule. And flexibility is a must. “We obviously try to stay on track with the plan as much as possible, but the plan also needs to be able to change too when the unexpected comes up,” said Granato.
The plans seem to definitely be paying off! Just recently, Granato found out that he was in the top 25 for the Rolex/USEF Horse Ranking List along with household rider names like Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden. No small accomplishment! On just schooling days, Granato finds time to give lessons and try and play catch up.
But, beyond his own personal accomplishments, this young professional is committed to giving back to the industry any way he can. Even if that means rescuing 35 minis! Peeps, a dwarf mini beneficiary of a rescue effort that he and fellow rider Josh Dolan participated in last summer in Kentucky, has also become quite the ambassador and mascot, too. Peeps travels with the rest of the crew and is the barn’s beloved cheerleader. With a friendly personality and cuteness overload, Peeps is also a fan favorite with children and adults alike. “Its amazing what a sensation a little mini has created! The girls in the barn as a joke set up a Facebook page for her, and once they started the Instagram page, its been incredible the positive feedback we’ve gotten,” said Granato.
As the days at the barn are usually jam-packed with activities, it is always a challenge to distinguish between the urgent versus the important. Granato is quick to point out that it is critical to set goals to assist in determining how best to accomplish your riding aspirations. “I think for everybody at any level to really push yourself towards your goals. Everyone has a different level to aspire to but there’s always a big goal no matter what the level. Work hard towards it and gain knowledge from every aspect – horse management to riding and training and working these animals there’s so much that goes into it.”