I had lessons at a riding school for about 3/4 years from the age of 5. The horses were like zombies and all I learnt was to stay on at a walk, trot and canter. I becaame a junior staff there when I was about 9, and stopped lessons. I got my first horse at 10.
Since then, I haven't had proper lessons - I'm now 20. My parents are completely non-horsey and I didn't know any horsey people. I joined the local Pony Club.
I had a sh*t of a pony who scared the bejeebers out of me. My dad had to lead me all the way to Pony Club, in tears, and I would STILL fall off that pony. I rode this 11h pony in a big heavy stock saddle made for a fully grown man that I floated around in and that sat all the way back to my ponies rump. We were the definition of novices in over our heads - My parents didn't know how to help, so my 10yo self had to shape up or ship out. Guess what? I did. I sold that pony as a safe kids pony a year or two later.
Numerous horses later, and I am a darn good rider. I'm not a pretty rider, i'm no a classically correct rider, but I am a functional, safe, and effective rider. I haven't gotten on a horse yet that I can't improve. I have had GREAT success competeing - I have bags upon bags of ribbons at home. I won our zone gameing championships 5 years running. I have numerous awards for my riding. I also have begun to instruct at our PC and other places. I was in the state squad for MG 4 times. I have represented my country riding overseas. I ahve done well in just about any discipline you can think of.
Okay, so that wasn't intended as a brag - It IS intended to show that with a bit of determination, guts, and no other option, you CAN each yourself, and do it successfully.
It also requires a good horse - By good, I don't mean well trained - I mean with the right temperament. You need a tolerant horse who won't take advantage of mistakes. Wildey was that horse for me - An 11yo kid with a green broke 5yo Arab by rights should have ended horribly - But he had the temperament, and we were phenominally successful. Of course I made mistakes - He has some bad habits now that he wouldn't have if I could do it over. But I was a kid who liked to go fast (Which kid doesn't!). Despite that, he is an absolute legend of a horse and I have had numerous offers from people wanting to buy him. He is now at a Riding for the Disabled School - not bad for a pony trained entirely by a child.
I still like to figure things out for myself. I see other people doing something cool, and I think 'I want to do that'. So I go home and experiment, try different things, until I hit on one that works.
I get to clinics if I can, and recently had a couple of lessons with a family friend. Lessons to me are more about refining, fine tuning, and cleaning up the picture. The basics I can do myself. I honestly don't care what I look like when riding - But if I am functional enough to stay on top of my horse chansing after cattle in rough country or doing Mounted games flat out, and still get what I want from my horse, then I am happy.
Funnily enough, even though i'm not a pretty rider, I have won quite a few rider classes (Like equitation classes).
There is a massive dependance on instructors and trainers in the US. It is almost blasphemy to be competeing without a trainer. It is really bizarre to me, as it is so different to here in Australia.
Here, most kids don't have trainers. They are too expensive and often not available in many areas. We get used to relying on ourselves and other horsey friends. Not one of my riding friends has lessons or a trainer.
When I first joined this forum I thought it was absurd how most threads had the response 'Get a trainer!' - it just isn't what we do here. It still rankles a bit when I hear people being told they can't succeed without a trainer. It is very 'elitist'.