In 1985, the Arabian horse season was plagued with rain - especially Sunday, October 6 when the Arab Horse Society staged its 12th Arabian Marathon on Exmoor in southwest England - the third marathon to be held on the moors.
Because many horses came long distances - at least one from Scotland - horse boxes began to pull into the picturesque village of Exford late Saturday afternoon and by early Sunday, as streams and rivers overflowed their banks amid the high hills and wooded glens of the moor, the town's streets and the narrow moor roads were crowded with cars, vans, Land Rovers and trailers. By 10:00 a.m., a meadow in Alderman's Barrow had been turned into a parking lot and a horse box had been commandeered as an office where the riders could be weighed and registered. At no point, though, was there even a thought of canceling and about 11:00 a.m., with cold rains slashing down at a 45-degree angle, 22 Arabians set off through the thick brown tangle of gorse that covers much of the moor.
As with any marathon, the course measured exactly 26 miles, 385 yards (42 kilometers), but the Exmoor race also pitted the Arabians against the steep hills of the moors - some 457 meters high (1,500 feet) - not to mention the weather. The rain fell so hard that a handful of loyal spectators and a sprinkling, so to speak, of reporters and photographers who drove rapidly from one vantage point to another could barely follow the race even through binoculars and telephoto lenses.
Meanwhile, the Arabians galloped, trotted and walked gallantly on across the moors, their riders somehow picking out the large yellow flags marking the course - though four, defeated by the cold downpour, withdrew. About 1:00 p.m. the first of the 18 to complete the course came wearily up a long hill toward the finish line near Alderman's Barrow. Despite the storm, the winner Shereen, owned and ridden by Dr. Martlm Kiley-Worthington, finished in one hour and 42 minutes, not the fastest time ever listed for the marathon, but admirable under the circumstances. In second and third places were Pavane, owned by Mrs. G. F. Kidner and ridden by Rose Miners with a time of one hour and 48 minutes, and William, owned by and ridden by Mrs. Christine Hull. Mrs. Hull's time was one hour, 52 minutes and 33 seconds.
It was, though, hard going for both competitors and spectators. Toward the end of the race the rain was coming down so hard it filled up coffee cups as fast as the spectators drank the coffee. Observing this - and the drenched, shivering riders galloping unheedingly toward the finish - one smiling English lady summed up the marathon in one succinct phrase: "A typical example of English lunacy."