We're gonna do what?
Getting started in the distance sports can be spectacularly easy (you know who you are) or outrageously harrowing (that would be me). So much depends on the differences in your horse, your riding level, and your peer group that it is difficult to predetermine final outcome.
Let’s talk about your horse. Is the horse a typical Arabian, half-Arabian, Anglo-Arabian? If so, how trained is the horse? Does it travel on cue in a group at the walk, trot, canter? Do you have lateral control and responsive braking? If so you’ve won half the battle. Is your horse mentally sound? Is it calm in the confines of a busy ride-camp? Is the horse calm when being handled by strangers with other horses milling around? If so you are closer still to the goal. How is the horse emotionally? Does it worry over the other horses? Or is it content to be with you? Does the horse travel well? Does it eat and drink on trail? Is the horse on medications? Most substances are banned from use during competition. If the horse is on medication can it be off of medication long enough to pass a random drug screen? If these factors are all given good marks you are one step ahead in the newbie corner. Proceed to the trail, start conditioning, and enjoy the ride!
Then there are the rest of us. We have some variety of horse that may fit the “other” category. The horse is a non-typical breed to the sport. Here’s your first challenge. You will have a tougher time getting condition, pulsing down, cooling, and making time down the trail. This is not to say you can’t participate and enjoy the sport riding what you have, but the learning curve is tougher, that’s for sure. It depends on your thinking really, and why you are riding a non-typical breed vs. a more highly suitable breed as to how much fun you will actually have riding the horse in endurance. You might need to choose different goals, and speed may not be a factor except for reaching the maximum ride cut off time, or racing the trail to beat your own previous time. So if you can’t race to win, why do it? Really, it is the challenge; of bringing a horse through the ride, and beating the trail, trail conditions, and meeting mileage goals, and often times you are racing against yourself. Racing against your self? Think of it this way; you competed at the Blue Sock Special ride in 2012 with a time of 4 hours. Next year you’ve set a goal to better that time to 3 hours 40 minutes. In the meantime, you are completing other rides, with goals for each of them. Your competition becomes layers, upon layers, of small improvements. All the while you are stacking up mileage for mileage award pinnacles (chevrons & patches). There are exceptions to this rule. Every now and then somebody rides a non-arabian and kicks some time booty, but better to enter the sport understanding that those Arabians dominate the sport . But you can have fun anyway ☺. It all depends on your reason for riding. If you enjoy a real challenge, love the horse you have, are able to ride your own ride, all of your horse's gears are working (walk, trot, canter, whoa, and lateral movement) and want to try Limited Distance or Endurance, saddle up and ride. See where the distance trail takes you.