At one ACTHA ride, I almost got points off for riding in an English saddle because "it wasn't proper trail attire." My friend was assistant and called the judge out on my behalf.
I was also called down by a judge for my horse being "hyper" and "prancing". My horse was doing a very collected, high stepping rack. Her head was in the air because that's how she gaits. We got points off for "rushing" several times.
Yeah, the tack issue you described very similar to what I've heard as well. Someone on another horse forum mentioned that they were riding in an ACTHA competition with a neck rope on their horse, and were informed (by a judge) that they were not allowed to use a "tie down."
Really, if the judge can't tell the difference between a neck rope and a tie-down, why are they judging at all?
Same goes for the breed thing. If someone is on a low-headed, slower-moving breed that plods along and picks its way through obstacles, and that's what they're happy to ride, that's fine.
But that shouldn't mean penalizing or deducting points from a gaited horse/rider team that can move confidently, safely and swiftly through the same obstacles.
Not all horse/rider teams need
to stop and "look" at every obstacle in order to get through it safely. In fact, some horses can get so used to being made to "stop and look" at everything that they end up more agitated and nervous than if they were simply asked to continue through the obstacle. That's all part of the rider giving the horse confidence, and the horse trusting that its rider will not put it into a dangerous situation.
Of course, that's JMHO.