Yeah, I hear you. One thing that can help both with her contact and your seat is making sure you are making all your cues through your legs. Your calves are for impulsion (speed) and your thighs are for balance. So to go faster or sideways, use your calves. Any time you want to slow down or balance or collect, use your thighs. It helps to try to train her to respond almost completely to leg pressure for everything (shouldn't be hard, as you are just walking for awhile)--halting, turning, collecting, and don't touch her mouth except in light guidance. This gets her responsive and her hind end under her, so she can then come into contact with the bit. I can see what you mean that she is a little tense; she also looks a little behind the bit (her head is round but not her body), so just worry about her body for awhile--good impulsion, stepping through supply, bending willingly--and then start to add light rein contact. It has always worked with my lazy sporthorse gelding. :)
Maybe it was just what I understood, but isn't impulsion the energy/power coming from behind and not necassarily speed? Does that make sense? (just curious here as to what I interpreted)
Lucy is very sensitive and changes pace at different gaits (walk trot) and goes where I want her to just off of my seat. However, she still can't do it completely relaxed and she doesn't want to stop 100 % of the time so I have to set my hands and let her run into them if my seat doesn't work at first. She still isn't ready to try collection with, I am still trying to get her to relax
I know I need to work on my seat and Lucy definitely tattles on me when I get off balance (makes it easier for my trainer :P). So some of her unsteadiness is my fault, the better I get the better she gets :)
What I am doing right now to get her used to the contact is letting her have a fairly generous amount of rein and then I control her pace with my body. she can fuss with her head until she figues out that she has a set amount of rein and she can relax and take the bit (easiest).
My trainer thinks she is likes to go behind the bit because she had been forcefully "held together" and she had even built up a weird muscle on her neck where she was cheating and "popping out" of bending instead of breaking at the poll.
Thanks for the food for thought!