I am going to have to do a spring tune up with Jack first thing, the weather has been so ugly for so long it's been about 2 months since I've been able to ride and he is pretty out of shape(by that I mean his shape is ROUND). My friend that is a level 4 is going to help me get him going once he's back in shape and see if he takes to it. He's extremely smart and I think he will love it once he realizes what I'm asking for.
Also, she has offered to let me try riding her horse in a competition when I am ready so that I have a better idea as well. She has a QH/TB named Mongo that can take care of her non-horsey dad as well as blaze through a course so I feel pretty good about trying it. I am told that you can pay to actually run the course but you're not really competing, which is what I would prefer at first. I know it'll be at least a year before Jack and I can really "compete" but I am really looking forward to giving it a shot;p
I know a few horses that are able to rate themselves to the rider. My wife's horse takes me at his "top speed" my wife at "her own" speed and can also carry a 14 year old that just learned to ride. It is amazing to watch a horse go through the same course at three entirely different speeds.
It is hard to explain, but there is a difference between competing and being competitive. Sure, it will take some time before most people are ready to "blaze" through a course. Likewise, it takes most horses and riders about a year before they really start to gain proficiency.
While it may take some time to become "competitive" at a higher level, that does not mean you cannot compete!
Mounted shooting groups riders into level. When you start, you are a level 1. While you can still compete for "overall match winner" you are also competing against other level 1 riders. Most times, they are just as new to the game as you.
After you win your class (at least 3 level one riders in a competition) a certain number times, you will be a level 2.
This allows riders to ride at their own level of experience/ability and still be able to "win." Some events have buckles and prizes for each class.
Some riders also compete for "the good time" instead of the "time." They don't care about the clock and play for fun and their own personal goals. Someone may be riding simply to beat their own previous time. Someone may simply want to walk the course or trot the course.
In every event I have been to, no one has ever thought twice about this. Everyone is encouraged to ride in whatever way makes it fun for them (as long as it is safe). This game is unique in that way, and part of what makes it so much fun for so many people.
If you want to ride as an "exhibition" rider, that it fine too. Just don't think there is anything wrong with being part of the actual competition simply because you are a beginner to CMS.