Yeah, I agree tie downs are way over abused by bad riders. I mostly see used to make insecure novice riders feel better when riding an ill trained animal. I really think all young barrel racers should have to take a class about proper training and care of barrel horses and proper competition etiquette and then they should have to pass a test or something before being allowed to compete. I think that would seriously cut down on the abuse of barrel horses you see at almost every show.
Tiedowns, just like every other piece of equipment are very good training tools when used in the proper situation. But I see them abused more than any other crutch out there. It is sad that people would rather crank a horses head down and tie it there instead of properly training it to do the job it is supposed to do in a safe, comfortable, controlled manner.