Being an avid horse lover all my life, I must admit that I had never even heard of an Alter-Real until my current research. And now I’m intrigued.

The Alter-Real is closely related to the better known Lusitanian.

It is called a baroque horse. Which is a loose term used to describe horses of medieval descent. The Baroque is characterized by agile movements, powerful body, muscular and arched neck, and typically a thick mane and tail; and known for his exceptional skill in high school dressage.

The Alter-Real is generally 15-16 hands tall with a smallish head that is straight or slightly convex. They are usually brown or chestnut, although it is not uncommon for them to be gray and chestnut. The shoulder should be strong, muscular and well sloping. The body is relatively short with a deep chest and broad, powerful, well-muscled hindquarters. Although the legs are short with large, flat knees and strong hocks, they are agile with a very flamboyant kneeing action and a rather short stride.

The Alter Real was founded in 1748 by the Royal House of Braganza (the dynasty that ruled Portugal at the time) in Villa do Portel. After several years in the breeding program, the stallion was moved to another Portuguese city, Alto de Chao. This is how the breed got its name ‘Alter’ from the village and ‘Real’ which is Portuguese for Royal.

The initial breeding program began with Andalusian mares imported from Jerez in Spain and the best Arabian stallions.

Unfortunately, the stud farm was subject to several crises and during the years 1804-14, in the midst of the War of Independence, most of the stolen cattle were destroyed by Napoleon’s army. What stock remained was taken in 1834 when the king abdicated the throne.

The stock was then infused with Hanoverian, Norman, and Arabian blood, resulting in a decline in the quality of the breed. In the late 1800s, the breed was in poor condition. The introduction of an Azpata strain of Andalusian blood was the turning point in the decline of the breed and a small stud farm was started. In 1932, this stallion passed into the hands of the Portuguese Ministry, which since then has dedicated itself to much slaughtering and refining using the best stallions.

Today the breed continues to increase in numbers and although there are not many, the future of the breed seems secure.

happy riding

Jo Thompson