Alex Granato has been developing his partnership with Carlchen W for more than seven years, and it culminated in Granato’s first major U.S. championship at the Pan American Games (Peru) last year, where he and the gelding helped the team win bronze. Granato started with the high-spirited Mecklenburg (Chacco Blue—Celline W, Continue), owned by Page Tredennick, when the horse was 5, and he’s appreciated “Carl’s” fighting spirit from Day 1.
Last year was a banner year for the pair. They started off by topping the $71,200 Suncast Palm Beach Masters qualifier and the $208,200 Longines FEI Palm Beach World Cup qualifier at the Palm Beach Masters (Florida) in February, and they went on to win a CSI3* in Kentucky, a CSI4* at Upperville (Virginia), the $135,000 Longines FEI Columbus World Cup qualifier (Ohio), and they finished off the year with a win at the National Horse Show (Kentucky) in the $135,000 International Jumper Classic.
“It means a lot to me that I’ve been able to develop him from the young jumper classes up to the five-star grand prix and competing for our country,” said Granato. “That’s always something that I’ve wanted to do at that level, and to be doing it on one that I’ve developed is amazing. I think that it really helps our record and our partnership in the ring, knowing each other so well. It’s been really rewarding.”
• The gelding lights up in the ring, but he isn’t always fiery and on the move. “A lot of people don’t really believe us when we tell them that Carl is pretty laid-back at home,” said Granato. “He’s calm and cool to deal with in his stall, even though our farm is so high energy, with a lot of rescue animals; he actually enjoys it. Some of the better rides we have are when we’re flatting, and all of the minis are running around loose in the arena with us.”
• Granato and Josh Dolan founded the Peeps Foundation, which rescues Miniature Horses, and that’s where Carl resides when home in Florida for the winter, and in Kentucky during the spring, summer and fall. Living among a herd of minis has its perks—a lot of little friends! “His favorite minis (he loves them all) Sherman and Chang have really big personalities, and they’re always wrestling and playing around, always in everyone’s pockets in the barn, and so they’re probably around him the most,” said Granato. “I get the feeling he just wants to be loose with the minis, as we let them wander throughout the day.”
• Granato labeled Carl as an all-around “great horse to deal with. His personality at the show is very different; he’s high energy, very focused in the ring, a very hot horse. But on the ground, he is well mannered; he’s got a great personality—very sweet and loves attention, and he’s always looking for a cookie or to play around.”
• Carl likes to keep an eye on all the comings and goings wherever he lives. “When we are working around him in the barn he always has the crossties that have a closed wall behind him, because he’s always paying so much attention to things that we don’t want him to pull away and get loose,” said Granato.
• Carl is a competitor. “Yeah, he has a lot of blood and energy, but I think he really loves his job and loves to go in and perform,” Granato said. “I’m very competitive and want to go in, but I want to do even better for him. I know that he’s always going to give me his best effort, so it makes me that much more eager to go in and be a part of that with him. I find myself not wanting to make a mistake or the wrong decision for him.”
• Carl is versatile and happy to jump in all different atmospheres. “I’ve not had him at a venue that he didn’t do well at,” admitted Granato. “It was actually a little tricky to plan our winter. A big question for me was doing indoors and how he would perform there. He doesn’t have a ton of experience with them, and a goal for [2020 was the Longines FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas], so we had been working toward that, and so I picked a few indoor shows to gain experience before we came to Florida. He’s such a high energy horse that you need to focus, and he exceeded my expectations.”
• An intense personality requires an intense theme song. If Carl had one, Granato says it would “definitely be something upbeat and something with a lot of bass, maybe that song ‘Sandstorm’ [by EDM star Darude].”