However, I have a question about the wither clearance. They say on this site to have 2-3 fingers between the saddle and the withers on the top and the sides. The question I'm coming across is close contact vs. dressage saddles. They use dressage saddles, which are cut differently than close contact saddles. Other videos with cc/ap saddles (including a video they provided a link to on the site) say 2-3 fingers on top with 1-2 fingers on the sides.
So - what's optimal for a close contact saddle? Is 2-3 fingers on the side really doable/optimal? If it is, how on earth do these saddles fit (the notion seems bizarre to me)? Pictures?
Yes, it's possible. Some brands do tend to have lower pommels, and so you really need to have biggish panels beneath to give that clearance. Other brands have more initial room under the pommel---taller "tree points"--and then you just have to either have appropriate panels or be able to pad to fit as well as possible.
I'm a big fan of wool-flocked saddles, as you can stuff the panels to fit your horse.