When the Royal Stables of Lisbon Portugal needed an efficient carriage horse, it was the Alter Real that came about in the mid 1700's to satisfy the request. The Iberian breed was created using Andalusians and Arabians, resulting in a horse that could offer a smooth and reliable gait. Their well muscled physique gave them all the power they needed to pull the transport of royals in almost any terrain. To this day, the breed is still a symbol of royalty in both Spain and Portugal and the breed is often used in a number of traditional ceremonies throughout the region.
From time to time, the Alter Real is referred to as one of the Baroque Horses. Baroque Horses were those breeds that exhibited muscular hind ends, thick strong necks that were perfectly arched and a long full tail. They were often used for dressage and trained to perform a number of gaits and tricks with amazing precision. A more commonly known Baroque Horse is that of the Lippizan. The Andalusian, from which the Alter Real is descended, is also one of the Baroque Horse breeds. When the Alter Real was not pulling the carriages of royalty, it was being trained in the art of classic dressage as well.
The Alter Real stands at approximately sixteen hands and is said to exhibit the same arched neck and strong powerfully built body it did in its early development. The colors can range from bay to chestnut, with the lesser seen chestnut color as one of the most popular. The Alter Real is reported to have had several breeding issues in the past due to Arabian blood being brought into the line by those trying to preserve it. However, once Andalusian blood came back into the line, the breed was restored to its former excellence. It has since become quite the preferred breed for dressage enthusiasts.
Being the cross between two breeds, the Alter Real seems to offer all the best characteristics of the Andalusian and Arabian. With a head that naturally carries high, the breed exudes confidence and poise. While some refer to them as high strung, others prefer to call the breed mindful, feeling it is a characteristic that gives the Alter Real an edge in the area of dressage. A horse that is more aware of its surroundings is able to adjust accordingly than those who simply perform robotically. It also gives off a sense of personality, something that draws the eye and makes for a better performance.
These days, the Alter Real is rarely seen in use outside of its native Portugal and Spain. When it is, it generally has to do with a unique performance of some type. Dressage and Baroque Horse enthusiasts openly recognize the Alter Real, including the breed with Lippizans and other well respected Horses of the Middle Ages. Their long, three hundred year history is now considered a mainstay of Portugal's heritage. What started out as a simple need for a durable carriage horse, ended up being a country's greatest national treasure.