I know my head may get bit off for this in the long run. I have been showing AQHA for a while now and have seen some of the harshness because, it seems trainers seem less scared to use techniques when kids are around versus adults. I can see the logic behind the AQHA/APHA being more competitive than the color circuits but, the way I think about it AQHA is more competitive than APHA.
I say this because, as far as I know, the AQHA you must qualify for the World Show no matter what level, youth, amateur, select or open. In my knowledge, and I could be COMPLETELY wrong about this as I have no experience, you do not have to qualify for APHA.
On the trainer note, I have seen some bad things. Gouges in sides, rock grinder spurs, illegal bits, tongues split and cut in half and horses with bloody sides and rein marks. I have also seen trainers in my area loosen on their horses, duck taped spurs and snaffles on horses normally in big bits. I don't know if it is the northeast or the state I happen to be in but when it comes down to it, I think, if the trainer is truly a good trainer, then the horses welfare is the highest required need.
I can speak for draw reins. There are days I just want to practice my equ or horsemanship and don't want to fight with my horse, so out come the draw reins. I have ridden in draw reins in snaffles and leverage bits. I have used them around the legs and through the legs, hooked to the girth and to the saddle, you name it, I have probably done it.
Now, all these things I have talked about, the spurs the bits etc. I can tell you I was graced, thankfully, with a trainer who works with the horse to their comfort level then pushes them just enough so they grow.