I've seen riders who have spent a fortune and those who have not and the process is still the same. It's like the ole saying: "you get out of it what you put into it".
Here is what the process was like for me. Hope it helps.
1. Get a good experienced horse. I remember other club members talking about getting so well trained of a horse that 'any monkey could ride it.'. Then you are pretty much guaranteed to win. I used to think so too. But I've experienced it differently.
Yes, you do get a lot of wins riding that well trained horse. Yes, a good horse makes a good rider. But you also have to be willing to put in the time and practise to learn how to get the best out of that horse. (Here is a photo of me showing my 1st practise reining horse in 1993.)
My main goal for competing has always been to see how well my training program was working. I also tried to better what I had from the last show. It worked out well for me. Perhaps you have that drive too!
2. Get the best Trainer/Mentor you can find. I was fortunate in that the guy I was dating at the time was training and showing reiners. I wanted to do that too. He also was being coached by the best coach we had in the area at the time. So we spent almost every weekend at the coach's place during the spring to fall time frame. I always called it 'Reiner Immersion'.
I have some of my best memories from that time. I remember a funny story about me that I want to share. A bunch of us were training and practising in the arena as usual and I had just completed my turn. I stood atop my horse resting in the corner. The next thing I knew, I had woken up on a couch! Apparently, I have fallen asleep on my horse and had fallen off while still asleep! Ah, those were the days!
3. It takes Time to Learn the program. One of the best pieces of advice I got from a few people was to learn the whole process or program first from someone before incorporating other people's processes into your own. It took time. It was great advice. Once, I learned a complete program from my coach, I then knew 'the whole picture' so to speak. I could then learn how to improve and customize the program or process to suit me.
One big example for me, is that I'm not very tall. I have short legs. Most teenagers are taller than me. So I had to learn to use spurs well in order to really communicate to my horse.
4. Learn from many sources. In addition to riding and learning all the time, I also tried to learn from as many sources as I could. ORHA offered clinics. Sometimes I rode. Sometimes I just watched. We were a small club when I first starting learning but we had greats like Shawn Flarida, Brent Wright, and Dutch Chapman.
I also purchased and watched as many videos as I could get my hands on. That's where I started learning from the greats like Bob Avila. A handful of the greats had their own training tapes. Top trainers like Tim McQuay, Al Dunning and of course people like Clinton Anderson.
This tip wouldn't be complete without mentioning watching the greats at horse shows. At the All American Quarter Horse Congress, I used to stay up during the wee hours of the morning and watch all the best reining horse trainers get their horses ready for that day. That was the main reason why I went. To watch and learn.
Oh! Once I learned who wasn't good at showing, I stopped watching them. 'Nuff said.
5. Show Smarts. Showing is both an art and a science. I remember those first shows. Thanks to the Ontario Reining Horse Association, I was able to show 'in my own back yard'. They only had the 1 beginner class in those days - not like today with so many choices for new people. It was just the ticket! I was able to get the show experience and confidence I needed before trying other shows in the states.
6. Assist the Judges. One of the opportunities I have is to volunteer for my reining club. Our judges require an assistant or 'scribe' as we call them to record the scores as the judge is scoring each maneuver for the contestant's run. I started to scribe over 20 years ago to not only help the club but also to keep on top of the changes in the rules. It also allowed me to see first hand who the judges were scoring our runs so that I would know best as well. Perhaps that is possible for your too.
7. Upward and Onward. For me, the last process is one of moving up. As I progressed and wanted to learn more, I got a different horse. I think everyone can agree that showing different horses brings lots of showing experience.
Good luck in your showing! If you're in the neighbourhood of Fletcher's Horse World in Waterford, Aug. 14-16th, I will see you there. I'll be scribing for the judges!
Putting my spin on learning to show.