I'm fairly new to this saddle fitting thing. I never had a problem horse and never used a saddle fitter, but my new horse has proved to be very challenging to fit. She is a 14 hand gypsy/paso fino cross with a big shoulder, lowish withers, wide sprung ribs, short back, and croup high. She is also out of shape and 6 1/2 years old. I'm planning to do flat work and trail riding. No competition riding. I embarked on this project a couple of months ago. I researched a lot, did the wither tracings, and tried maybe a dozen saddles. I finally purchased a dressage saddle, a very nice one for a great price. It's an 18" seat and I thought the saddle fit her well in the shoulders with plenty of wither clearance. It fits me, has a secure seat, and she moved well when I rode her in it and showed no signs of discomfort. As far as length of saddle, I had determined the edge of the rear panel was at the 18th thoracic vertebrae but not beyond it. The saddle has padded rear gussets that were a bit tight under the rear panel and caused a slight bridging under the center of the saddle. However when girthed up this seemed to resolve. I decided to have a professional evaluate the fit and adjust the flocking to help the fit in the middle and rear, so I got a referral for a saddle fitter off the internet from the saddle maker's list of approved saddle fitters. She came out and looked at the saddle on my horse without girthing it up or having me ride in it. She told me it was too long for my horse's back. She showed me where the rib ended and went up to the spine a full inch short of the rear gusset. I felt like she was wrong about where the rib was and her measurement was short, but I figured, hey, she's the professional and knows this stuff better than I do. She said my horse could never have an 18 inch seat saddle. It needed to be 17 inch and maybe a 17.5 inch at the very most. (Never mind what would fit me.) Also my saddle is too wide in the shoulders, sits too low in front, and I need a saddle with no rear gussets. She gave me a recommendation for what would fit in her saddle's brand (almost $3 grand new!) and left.
So here's my dilemma and what I need advice on. I thought a saddle should be evaluated for fit girthed up and she didn't do this. I'm thinking she was wrong about my horse's anatomy and where the last rib is. Sure it's not a perfect fit, but I thought possibly reflocking could address the fit of the middle and rear. A little padding in front can address the width. She did mention using shims to raise the front. Since I didn't agree with her completely, I thought I would get another saddle fitter's opinion. So my question is this: How do I evaluate the saddle fitter? And what does a good saddle fitter do to evaluate a saddle? I really want to make this saddle work, but I don't want to do any damage to my horse's back. I will sell it and keep looking if needed. Any suggestions, critique, etc., are welcome!