.... First, my balance is terrible! It makes it difficult to keep quiet hands and I feel just awful because I feel like I'm going to haul back on the poor guy's mouth unless I grab mane. I feel like I have a secure seat at the walk, but as soon as I attempt to post the trot it seems to all go right out the window. I often hear the term "drive from the seat" and also how much of the control of the horse should come from the leg and seat aids and rely less on the rein aids, but as soon as we break into a trot I feel a little overwhelmed trying to post AND steer AND figure out what I should be feeling. Somehow I feel like there's something I'm missing and as soon as I get that I'll have an AHA! moment. I have wondered if I'm just terribly out of shape. :( It makes me want to kick myself when little girls smaller and younger than me manage to ace the things I'm struggling with.
I spend a lot of time reading and studying. My rekindled passion for horses has me absorbing every bit of info I can find when I'm not at the barn. It's both wonderful and intimidating that there's SO MUCH and often conflicting information, not to mention the terminology and descriptions might be better suited to a more advanced rider than myself, but I have found some helpful tidbits.
So.. the TL;DR version of this is:
- I will be taking weekly lessons after the new year.
- My goal is to be able to show/test.
- I'm looking for things I can do during all those hours OFF the horse to help my success for the time I'm on the horse.
- Help? :)
I hope the previous posts have alleviated your "feeling old" :)
While you don't have the advantage of extreme youth and "bounciness" at the beginning of your journey - you have something else... a mature wisdom, a brain that knows how to learn, the confidence to make choices about what you want to learn and how. And the awareness of what you want to do better - how many of those kids are worrying about their hands "hauling back on the poor guy's mouth
So take that as an advantage! :)
Now to answer your specific questions:
Anything to improve your balance and self-awareness will be helpful (not to mention developing calmness and authority) - things like yoga or martial arts and so on, or specific riding exercises.
Reading/studying is a great way to progress - just know that there are many different ways of riding, as well as explaining how to ride. So don't feel that because you are new to this discipline, you need to believe everything you read or hear! Get a good overview and then choose where you want to go - and know that you can change that later too :).
I think as far as learning the actual skills of "how to stay on the horse in harmony" - you can't beat a biomechanics coach. This is becoming more and more accessible - there are books, videos and coaches who will help.
I have this new idea of trying to help riders through an online course - not just theory, but exercises and also the option of showing me their work via video or pictures. As so many people are interested in improving between lessons, and sometimes books leave them with questions or mis-understood concepts.
As far as your body on the horse - know that the only way you can have perfect hands is: if the rest of your body functions well. It seems we have to learn to ride from our centers outwards - starting with the pelvis/core muscles/neutral spine, then thighs. And lower legs and hands are pretty much last to fall into place :).
There is a technique to the rising trot - maybe post a separate question about this (this makes it easier for people to follow posts and so on, otherwise the conversations get fairly cumbersome to follow :) ).
There has been recent research done into how people learn any skill, and how it actually works in setting up the neural circuits in the brain. A big part of it is focusing on our mistakes. Not to put yourself down, but to stop and correct them. So be thankful for your awareness of what you want to change! And another great benefit: because you are new to this activity, you have no set circuitry in place - no habits, good or bad. You are starting at a brand new place - where you have the unique chance to practice correctly from the beginning, to make only the correct connections in your brain.
I know when I was at the place of wanting to progress into the upper levels of dressage - I knew it was my lack of physical skills that was holding me back - and I found very little help and information on what to actually do with my body. How to arrange it, how to use the specific muscles for optimal results. I think it's a lot more accessible now - just the example of how much things like seatbones and core muscles are mentioned in teaching and articles and so on.... so enjoy learning now, with this precise new information available :)