The south of the Iberian Peninsula is the birthplace of an equine breed whose origins date back to prehistory. Rock paintings found in the region prove that this is where the world’s first saddle horse appeared. This breed is still in existence and is known in Portugal as the Lusitano.
The Iberian cavalry practised a thousand-year old method of riding known as ‘à gineta’, notable for the use of very short stirrups, among other things, which provide the rider with greater mobility and efficiency during combat.
The remarkable Portuguese tradition, illustrated by numerous writers of treatises and celebrated horsemen, experienced a great boost in the 18th century when, under the influence of Queen Maria Ana of Austria and the prince and future King José I, King João V established the Alter Real Stud Farm in 1748. This stud farm, which still exists in the same location, was revitalised in 1942, using the last remaining animals to revive the breeding of Lusitano horses of the “Alter Real” lineage.
The Lusitano is popular as a mount for sports and leisure, and as a breeding animal because of its rare character traits and genetic antiquity. Furthermore, it continues to be the ideal horse for equestrian art and bullfighting. This horse will always surprise with its versatility and its natural aptitude for show jumping, dressage, working equitation and combined driving.
The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art makes exclusive recourse to Alter Real Lusitano horses. EPAE today hosts around 50 such horses, all stallions, some of which are breeders for the Alter Stud Farm.