*Probably* should have done that first, but eh. After 2 kids my body is totally crazy anyway... especially after my daughter (who is 20 months old). I gained 90lbs with her and lost it all, but I'm definitely not toned like I used to be!
Nah, the riding itself will start getting you back in shape. No need to do it first. And after that many years and a couple of kids, it's not just your muscles that have changed (and the muscle memory that has gone to earth) - your whole center of balance is different now. So even if you still had easy access to the muscle memory and were totally fit, you'd *still* be having to relearn some of that stuff just because your body isn't the same body it was when you learned it the first time.
I'm just so frustrated with myself... part of me knows that I am a total beginner again and I have to relearn everything, that I can't expect to be able to get on and ride perfectly after over 10 years. But part of me is like... you've done this before, you should be able to do it NOW. And the thing is that I originally learned all of this when I was 9 years old, so I don't remember at all HOW I learned it. By the time I stopped riding it was totally automatic, I didn't have to think about how I gave cues or anything. And I haven't thought about it at all in the time that I've been away from horses. :/
Well, you sound pretty in touch with yourself and your motivations, etc. so that's good. Just maybe need a little extra encouragement. I'll try for that: I used to ride bareback all the time as a kid, walk, trot, etc. Didn't even use a bridle, just a halter with a lead rope. Never had lessons, this was all strictly backyard pony stuff. Fast-forward a few decades, and I've been trying to learn to sit the trot on my horse for a freaking YEAR. He's got a gigantic movement and just launches me out of the saddle with every pace, and I can sit it badly, but it doesn't feel like it's getting much better. We're doing a lot of other stuff, and that's great, but the flipping sitting the trot makes me want to tear my hair out. And I think "How the heck did I ever do this without a saddle?!?!" But, you know, that was a long time ago, this is a huge horse with a massive movement and a ton of energy, and it's a different game. Being rough on myself for not sitting the trot better just makes it worse.
Because of that - my guy will launch himself like a freakin' rocket into a canter from a walk or standstill, but my instructor doesn't care for that and wants me to learn to transition him up from the trot. Because I can't sit the trot on him worth a darn means it's taken forever for us to get to cantering. So this is a horse that I've owned since October, and we only started cantering together week before last in lessons. And that? It's down one long side of the ring, around a corner, and into the short side, then it's dropping back into the trot.
So, I'd say, cantering on lesson 2 without falling off, freaking out, or any other undesirable thing, well, that's pretty darn good!
And - that picking up the extended trot without busting into the canter - I'm sure your trainer was on that, but when I learned to canter (on a different horse with a smaller movement) we had that issue, and it was because my timing with the half-halt and leg aids was off.
I don't know... I wonder if my instructor is moving me along too quickly? Should I have been cantering in my second lesson? Or is it my own insecurity that is holding me back?
If you feel like you're not in control, and that it's unsafe, then yeah, you're being moved along too quickly. On the other hand, if it's just challenging, and you're worried about your ability, but you can still demonstrate the skills (keeping control of the horse, keeping your balance, etc.) then yeah, you're just psyching yourself out. Only one who can answer that is you, though. If it's making you uncomfortable in some way other than the "Rats, I'm going to have to deal with that" way, then you should let your instructor know. There's plenty to do at the walk, let alone at the trot.