It's not the optimal way, no question, but for those who don't have access to a good fitter within a reasonable distance, it can be done. You need a fitter who's experienced in long-distance fitting and who'll give you a trial period and work closely with you during the trial, and you have to be willing to answer questions and provide lots of photos ... but it's doable. Both Equestrian Imports and Panther Run Saddlery have fitters who've been doing long-distance fitting successfully for years.
I totally disagree with this and so does any of the many saddle fitters I have worked with through the years. There is no way you can know what the pressure is like under the bars among other things.
I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on this one, horsecatcher. As I said, it's not optimal, but it can be done if it's the only option. I've had fitters do hands-on assessments of lots of the long-distance fitting I've done, and I seem to have done a pretty good job for the most part!
Absolutely true that static fit is only part of the picture - active fit is the acid test. I've used video in the past with varying degrees of success; often, esp. with low-res digital video, it's almost impossible to see what needs to be seen, and we have to rely on photos and input from the customer, trainer, SO, BO, etc. There's a LOT of communication involved in doing long-distance fitting, and the customer has to be willing to give me tons of info, and the saddle has to be *really* ridden in under real-time conditions and reported on and ... well, as I said, it's a lot of work.
But that video thing ... hmmm ... "Tips for taking a saddle fit assessment video" ... I think I have a new blog post there, and a new page on the website. Thanks for the idea, horsecatcher!
As for the rest of you...you guys are killing me. I'm in the process of setting up an online consultation business where in exchange for a donation to an equine 501c3 charity, I'd offer recommendations about which saddles might best fit the horse, rider, budget, and riding goals. Unlike many saddle fitters, I am fluent in 95% of the brands on the market, from MSRP $400 all the way up to MSRP $5000+. Most traditional fitters understandably specialize in only a handful of brands. But alas, that project is on the back burner until the end of April because it's crunch time at my day job.
You are my official hero!! What a fabulous, generous, great thing to do. I love it and will totally email next time I'm considering potential saddles.
I like the idea of a long-distance saddle fitter. I have tried one saddle fitter (who is very well respected) and while I learned a lot about my horse's anatomy (his shape, etc.), I did not get any specific recommendations as to saddle brands that would fit him or the type of tree that would fit him except for two "new" saddle recommendations that I would have to order (and no mention of tree, etc. Just that she could order just what I needed.) After reading many, many custom saddle threads, I have come to the conclusion that the only custom saddle you should buy is the demo saddle that you are sitting in. Buyer beware if you try to order a custom saddle!
I like the idea of someone discussing different brand and style options, etc. . .that way I can have many options for sourcing a used saddle myself. And yes, I'd be willing to pay for this service.
That is the benefit of having someone analyze your tracings and information and suggesting saddles to try. It is helpful when there is a large inventory to choose from and then be able to try the saddles and see how you feel in it and how your horse moves in it. Active fit is just as important as static fit. Then, if you need to order a saddle with specific options, you can, knowing that you have tried the same or similar saddle.