Thank you for all your wonderful replies! I am very lucky to have a sweet, safe horse. She does challenge me and test me and act up more than I'd like, but we're working on it. I've done some groundwork with her in the round pen and that has helped us bond a bit. And at the end of my last two rides in the indoor arena, I got off and let her go cause I wanted to her walk a bit to see if she was limping. I figured she wouldn't go far and I can see her overall outline to know if she's limping or not. Well, she just stayed glued to me like Velcro horse. Now it's a game--I get off and walk and run all over the arena and try to "get away" from her and she heels like a dog. Very endearing. She is not a beginner horse in the saddle, but she's not too advanced for me. I'm just used to riding only completely idiotproof guided trail horses (Dude ranch type) the last many years. Now I actually have to RIDE. :) I have a goal. My goal is to be able to ride at the walk and trot--bareback, by next Summer. Seems achievable. Especially since her "trot" is actually a tolt or a pace--and both are smoother than a trot. As far as cantering (in the saddle!) that may take longer. Or not. I'm not going to worry about it too much, but it is a goal eventually.
Jolien---I'm going to think about the stuff you said. Some very interesting ideas!
Here's what I thought when I first read the bolded part:
If your balance is compromised, you have some health issues that mean a fall would be more impactful to you than to another person, but you have the heart to want to ride again, . . . then. . . ride SMART. To me, that means you do not ride bareback, at all. It's just too easy to come off, and if coming off could set you back in your dream, or re-stimulate the PTSD that is holding you back, then why increase your odds of that happening?
To me, I'd work on being a real rider, IN a saddle. Take your slowly building confidence and become the best rider you can in your saddle, working on becoming a 'pilot' to your horse, not just a passenger.
It's great to have a seat that's good enough to ride bareback, but bareback riding is not a requirement to becoming a better rider.
If I were younger, I'd totally do that, ride around bareback. Heck , I used to do it a fair amoungt. But, I want to ride for a long time, and I am more likely to fall if I ride bareback, so I'm going to consign that to my younger self's dreams.