Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: I'm an American girl living in southwest France
Maybe someone has already given this advice, and I'm sure many people with more experience than I have already weighed in. But since you are saying a lot of things I said recently about myself, here I am. I hope you find this helpful.
I'm 44 and recently started riding for the first time (back in August, 2 lessons per week). My first trotting experience was much like yours. And then I became proficient and went onto another horse and basically had to start all over. Ugh.
Every horse has a different "feel". Don't be too hard on yourself if you find yourself taking three steps back when you try a different one.
For learning the seated trot, my instructor has me take my feet out of the stirrups, lean waaaaay back, and just hold onto the saddle blanket in front of the English saddle. The reins are in my hands too but loose.
I have to focus on relaxing, breathing, and just feeling the rhythm of the horse. When you lean way back like that, the only way you bounce is if you're so stiff your butt muscles are like rocks. So just lean back, relax those butt muscles, and breathe. Don't grip hard with the legs, just keep them on the side of the horse near the stirrups. It works.
When I do this with feet in the stirrups, it's harder because then the feet start taking over the "seat" and I get unbalanced without a lot more concentration.
My instructor also has me do a posting trot without stirrups. If you alternate a posting trot without stirrups and then seated trot without stirrups, changing between the two for 2 or 3 beats each, you will find that seated trot rhythm much easier and the bouncing will eventually disappear. Whenever you feel the bouncing again, post a few times to get back in control and feeling the rhythm.
After you're comfy with this, you can do what I've been taught ... first take one hand off the reins and put it out to the side, alternate putting the other one out, and then drop the reins completely and ride the trot with arms out to the sides. It sounds scary, and maybe it is, but in the moment when the balance is there and the horse is flying around, it's amazing to realize you can sit the trot, hands and stirrups free and not fall off.
I think this is what saved me from losing my seat in my last lesson when my lesson horse spooked and jumped 3 feet to the side before bolting. Without all that balance practice, I would have been left behind on my arse in the sand. :) As it was, I rode him through an hour of getting over freaking out about a log on the ground outside the riding ring. :)
Final thought: Don't despair. If I can do this, anyone can do this!