First off, let me say Welcome to HF! What a post to start off with.
I will first address the Tail Sets and the issue of Cutting Tails.
Saddlebred girl, I believe you are mistaking cutting tails with the docking of tails. I don't know about the draft breeds or pony breeds that actually dock tails, but in dogs, the tails are docked at a very young age.
Tail cutting is a whole different thing altogether. It is most definitely NOT done as foals, for many reasons. One being, is they cannot as foals be evaluated for thier future division. It just can't be done. My father has been working with American Saddlebred Show Horses for over fifty years. He always says, "Never judge one until you put the tack on them." Babies least of all.
It is most commonly done at the very earliest at two, and more commonly between then and five.
Yes the op is correct. The tendons on the bottom of the tail are nicked, and they are put in a tail set so that when they heal, the tendons heal in a more stretched out, loose position than they were in. They do NOT lose the use of thier tail, nor are thier tails broken.
After the procedure is done, the horse is required to have stall rest and limited work, so as not to screw up the purely cosmetic procedure. The tail must be cut by a professional who is experienced in such procedures and the after care is MOST important. For the first week or so after the procedure the horse should be watched carefully, and his tail cared for. His tail set(harness thing) must fit him correctly so as to reduce discomfort. The tail set is there to keep the tail as limber and straight as possible. There is a penalty in the shows for horses with crooked tails, so care must be taken to make sure the outcome is as perfect as possible.
The cutting of tails is not necessary for a show horse, it is merely a cosmetic thing, that many believe "completes" the look of the show horse. Your horse is not penalized in any class for having an unset tail.
They cannot be cut as foals, for one reason being you don't want to limit what you can do with them, and another thing, is that they take so much time to care for, that your foal would never be allowed to be a foal. They would have to be kept in the tail set through thier childhood, which is totally unpractical, especially when you have no idea where they will excell. With less hair weighing down the tail, foals(even through adultood) will throw thier tail over thier back and prance around when they are feeling good.
It is NOT done as a foal.
There are some trainers who will have every horse in the barn in tail sets, because they believe that people will pay more or will think a horse is worth more when he is wearing one.
The more experienced and more knowledgeable professionals in the breed know better, and will evaluate each horse's potential before spending thier money(which often comes FROM the horses believe it or not), on a procedure that will limit the hrose or will be unneccessary for horses destined for some divisions.
Don't get me wrong, I have seen my fair share of HORRIBLE tail jobs, either because of an inexperienced practitioner, or from lack of care and attention on the owners part. Each case is inexcuseable, and could have been easily avoided. If you aren't going to take the time to do it right, don't do it at all.
The issue of tail cutting is a much debated and much discussed issue among the professionals in the industry, and will be settled by the professionals in the industry. Not to sound rude at all, but we do not need people who are not of the industry to become involved. It is being taken care of, I assure you, by the people who know the breed and have first hand experience in the issue.
Ginger has nothing do do with how a horse moves. It is there as encouragement for a VERY small number or horses to hold thier tails up when not braced(a brace is something used in the showring, to help hold the tail upright and straight. I can get into that more if you would like).
On ^ that note, nothing we ever train for in Saddleseat will ever help a horse piaffe or side pass or do any dressage maneuver, because they are two totally separate diciplines. We want different things, so we train for different things. The two cannot be compared.
Next will be bits and shoes.
In EVERY professional trainer's barn I have been in, they have always had a special section, be it a wall, a room, or various trunks, for a WIDE collection of shoes and bits.
Any devoted trainer knows the importance of finding the RIGHT bit that fits the horse and the horse is comfortable with. Unless the bit cannot be replaced, often times, it will go with a horse we personally sell, so that the new owner will know that that is what we got along with.
The same goes with shoes. The majority of Saddlebreds do not have horrendous shoes nor do they weigh "a ton". The pads we put on the shoes(not allowed in some divisions), are mostly there for shock absorption. With the horse stepping higher(which is completely natural, but I'll get to that in a moment), the foot strikes the ground with more force. The pad comforts and absorbs that shock, which in turn makes the horse more comfortable. Adding slight height(not to the extent of padded TWHs which I am learning more about, and can clearly explain the differences for you if you need me to) following the wall of the hoof, gives the foot a wider base and thus more stability.
Shoes come in all kinds of styles, each for a different purpose. With slight corrections in shoeing you can correct unevenness in the stride, winging(when they pick thier front feet up they angle out), you can help create or support the gait(if gaited, not all are), and MANY other things. I also live with an accomplished ASB farrier.(along with two trainers, two instructors, all our friends and myself). Many trainers are shoe collectors as well, so that they will have as many options in finding the right shoe for each individual horse's needs.
CH My-My's shoes were actually 12oz half rounds. She would often break them they were so light. We are fortunate enough to have a pair of that magnificent mare's shoes above our tack room door.
I will take a break now, and come back with more in a bit.
I would be MORE than happy to help answer anyone's questions they have on the issue. I want nothing more than for myths to be dispelled or miscommunications to be sorted out.