The Arab Horse Society Marathon celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in October this year, when the event returns to Thoresby Park, in the heart of Sherwood.
The marathon, run over the traditional 26 ¼ miles (the distance run by a messenger carrying news of defeat of the Persians from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens in 490BC), is “neither a flat race nor an endurance ride, but a hybrid of the two”. It is the ultimate test of horse and rider, demanding the utmost fitness of both.
The event was originally set up with the idea of proving the claims of the Arab horse: good legs, temperament and heart, constituting great stamina and adaptability to terrain. These days the event is open to all breeds, although only once has a horse without known Arab blood achieved the feat of beating Arabians at their own sport.
The event was first run in 1974 in Buckinghamshire, but was quickly transferred to the more challenging terrain of Salisbury Plain. It’s first year there, 1977, saw the Polish Anglo-Arab Tarnik, sire of this year’s Badminton winner Tamarillo, storm home.
The current record for the Marathon was set much later, in 1994 at Brocklesbury, when Malabar Bolero (by Sky Crusader out of Sky Echo) finished in the remarkable time of 1 hour 13.08 minutes.
The incorporation of a vetgate is a relatively recent development, and came partly as a result of outside pressure and to encourage more riders to participate. But it has been embraced as a concept by organisers and competitors alike, with riders using it to their advantage.
The focus of the Marathon is on performing to the highest possible standard while ensuring the welfare of both horse and rider. To this end, the AHS produces “Training for the Arab Horse Society Marathon”, and there is a consistent veterinary presence at the event itself. Rules ensure horses are not over-ridden, and if a horse is deemed unfit, it is eliminated.
A 30th anniversary supper will be held before the event, with a celebratory lunch on the day of the event. For those not wishing to participate in the competition, but wanting to ride the course, there will be a 13-mile pleasure ride in the afternoon following the Marathon.