The major thing that I see is not so much the stirrups or the leaning or the hands going up and down, but the fact that you are actually balancing off of the reins.
First thing is first, before you can develop a seat or feel more independent and comfortable and confident with your seat is those hands need to come down and rest on the horse's withers. A bucking strap is really useful for you to hang on to and get used to not being able to use your hands to balance your body. Even if you are just gripping the bucking strap, still focus on pressing your hands down and away from your body and then using your core to stabilize yourself. Imagine that your head is balanced on top of your shoulders and not attached, you need to keep it on your shoulders and not let it fall off!
Once you are more balanced with your body, you will feel more comfortable with a longer stirrup, with sitting in the canter, with riding bareback, etc.. But the first step is to re wire the body to balance itself with no reliance on the hands.
Thanks for the input - and I'm not singling you out, just realized how I could do the 'quote' thing! LOL
I'm just not sure I really am balancing off the reins. I work really hard not to do this, I can post just fine with no reins and remain balanced. I usually make sure to do part of my ride either on a loose rein and/or one arm reaching up, etc, just to make sure of that. Maybe I change my position once I take up contact again though?
Interesting development though for anyone interested, I went for a ride today, lowered my stirrups a hole and really concentrated on pulling my shoulders back and what I discovered is just how heavy my horse is in my hands! I think part of it could be that he really pulls me forward because he leans into the bit. He's not bracing against it but just more being lazy I think. I had to work really hard to stay upright and not let him pull me forward and now seeing it differently, in the past I would have felt like I would have to give him his head more because I'm so conscious of not wanting to pull on his mouth, but this time I wouldn't let him get away with it so kept myself sitting more back than usual, did lots of half-halts, etc. It was hard work though! I may have to lengthen my reins a bit next time. Not sure if I need to demand him to be a bit lighter, or let him have his head with a bit of a longer rein (still contact, but maybe my short arms are making it too short contact with leaning back more). Not sure if that makes sense....
The stirrups down a hole seemed to help too, but again I'm not sure if that will work for two-point work as I can barely clear the pommel when in two-point with them down the hole. Was much better though in order to be able keep my leg back, as well as allowing me to comfortably sit back more.
As for putting my hands on his withers, honestly my arms are too short and that makes me lean forward even more when I try to do that. My torso is longer than my arms/legs so I literally can't do that without having to lean forward. I do often use a martingale but I my arms practically are straight along with me leaning forward to reach it!
Thanks again everyone. Appreciate your time!