Honestly the only way I could see boots effecting a horses soundness is keeping it sound in the future. In equitation, they are allowed to use boots o/f as long as it blends somewhat with the horses legs. Personally I think in hunters it should be the same. Boots over fences that blend with the horses leg and remove them for the flat class. That way any scars and such are still visible.
Hunter classes may have started as a test to see if they're suitable for a hunt field, but that's not what it has become. It is so much more than just a horses bascule and general form over fences. A horses way of going is severely critiqued, and the horses I see winning classes can not have the greatest form (hanging knees out the yin yang on some of them) but still win if the horse has a steady, almost slow, even tempo through out the whole thing. If it was judged mostly on form and style over fences there would be a lot more show jumpers that would do well in it. Namely mine :\
If those aren't tight even knees then I really am not sure what are anymore. Doesn't do well in hunter classes as his way of going o/f is faster than hunters would like. Also he changes tempo, collects near a fence and then goes back to his fast pace around corners. Makes an excellent, clean and clear jumper but his form has never served him in a hunter class. Don't get me wrong, this is not some personal vendetta against hunters because my boy doesn't do well, I don't like doing hunters so it doesn't really bother me. He just makes for a good example that most of the emphasis is based on way of going for a hunter RING, as I don't think his way of going would really effect him in the hunt FIELD.
The hunter ring is a feild simulation . . . If you were chasing a fox across a field and over brush you wouldn't want to have boots falling off and getting caught up on things or martingales getting caught on branches. That's why. Lol
I think you are forgetting the true emphasis of the hunters is a horse suited to the huntfield. A horse that over jumps every fence is not saving his energy for a long trip over many miles. That is why some horses who are even and don't exagerate their form over fences often win, they are easy to stay with and set an even rythym or pace, a jumper pace would exhaust a hunt horse to early, and remember hunt horses are not meant for master riders to be able to handle, they are made for the average person to have a safe dependable mount. Something that won't refuse, won't jump a rider off it's back (esp after a few nips from the flask) and has an easy ground covering even stride. Also, even if you remove boots in an undersaddle class, to prove a horse is clean legged, that means the horse will only be penalized in the undersaddle class. So a horse with obvious scarring or bowed tendons or ring bone could succesfully place in the over fences but would be eliminated in the undersaddle. The jog eliminates some of this, but not every hunter class has a jog, so in order to be fair, not wearing boots is the only option. Most 4 ft hunters jog for soundness after every class, so obviously the horses have to stay sound in order to develope a show record, and if they are doing it without boots they must not be that neccesary. There are also some shady things people can do with boots in order to make a horse jump in better form, but I won't discuss them, but not wearing boots eliminates that temptation also.
I've never known a pair of properly applied boots to fall off. Martingales are allowed in hunter classes and are often used in eventing and I have never heard of them getting caught on anything, if your horse isn't clearing the jump well enough for a martingale to be out of range then I'm not really sure it should be jumping. But then I've never been out on the hunt field but it seems similar enough to a cross country course, in which martingales and boots are utilized.
Didn't see your post TroubledTB:
Thank you for your explanation on the slower pace, that is the only explanation I have heard on the subject that has made sense. Although I have to disagree with you on a slower pace meaning that you don't need a "master rider to be able to handle", most jumpers are not difficult to handle, just prefer to move at a faster pace. I know one and particular that is just what you described, safe and dependable, just prefers a faster pace. But thank you for the explanation on the slower pace, that does make more sense than what I've heard.
Most 4ft hunters school with boots on and remove them for the classes, or at least all the ones I have seen do. I just thought it didn't make a lot of sense since they were schooling with boots anyway and just remove them. Most major hunter barns in my area require boots for schooling at home and at shows for their students.
Your right, slower doesn't mean easier, but it is less intimidating when a horse does not speed up siginificantly to the fences, also a horse that pulls to the fences might make a rider feel that a horse would pull them over fences that the rider doesn't even want to jump. Your horses form is cute, he has nice hunter form over fences, if you work of the other stuff you might have a shot in the show ring.
Funny over here we are allowed boots in show hunter - which is our equivalent for you hunter rings - no flat invlolved - Although the rules state its prefered not to.... it could be the decision between the winning and loosing combination...
Our HOY none of the horses have boots... as a rule unregistered or training days ill happily put boots on - but will come off on registered days - and most people seem to follow that rule...
We also wouldnt mark a horse down for a "faster" pace as long as it is still steady consistant and not hooning.... they would be mark down for being irregular though.....
Depends on the judges preference - you get to know which judges like what...
Upand over - your pony has a CUTE little jump... agreed you would do we;ll if it was on form alone :)