Completely agree that riding as many horses as you can is the only way you're going to learn. Also, reputation is everything. I'm 17, about to turn 18, and I like to think I'm on the right track: I started with an apprenticeship. I found a local trainer who let me learn/work for free in exchange for barn work. I had to work 9-12 hour days but it was worth it. Then, I found a more well-known trainer (Roddy Strang) and pursued an apprenticeship with him, which I got, and this exposed me to many different training issues that I learned to combat.
If you have the motivation, you can do it! It's all about drive. Don't let anyone get you down. E-mail me if you want to chat :)