Nichole (@nickel07 on twitter) sent in the above photos of her wearing brown KSO FiveFingers alongside her horse who is, himself, free-hoofing it — no horseshoes!
My name is Nichole and I have been really enjoying following your stories of people with their various barefoot activities!
I have been a VFF KSO owner since February of this year, and have recently begun running in them. I am not a runner, in fact I have always hated running because of shin splints, so-called bad knees, and my flat pronating feet. I had been reading a few different blogs on barefooting and decided I would give it a try a few weeks ago, since I love walking everywhere in VFFs.
Lo and behold, I discovered I could run WITHOUT PAIN for the first time in my life, in my knees, feet, or shins. I am still in awe, and have had six or seven successful 2-3 mile runs since then, still pain free and feeling strong and connected to my feet in a new way! I sound like such a gushing convert when I explain to people that yes, I can run in these shoes and no, they don't have support. LOVE THEM!
Anyway, my main hobby is my horse. I am a student and instructor of natural horsemanship, and along with a holistic approach to equine behavior, I do my best to keep my horse's life as natural to him as possible. This includes keeping him barefoot, meaning with no horseshoes. Believe it or not, putting steel shoes on horses can create problems in their gait and health of their feet by restricting blood flow and preventing flexion of the hoof (a very live thing!). In fact, it was a few close horse friends of mine who actually introduced me to the barefooting idea and to VFFs in the first place! My horse has healthy feet and loves being barefoot, and I have recently joined him! I found that playing with my horse barefoot causes me to be much more aware of where my feet and his feet are, as well as causing me to be more polite in my communication!
Happy to hear that you are able to run again, Nichole! Furthermore, thanks for sharing about natural horsemanship.
It seems that natural horsemanship is a kindred movement to barefooting and/or minimalist footwear, which I'll characterize more generally as the "don't fight nature and expect to win" movement. Incidentally, Nichole's account above is the second time I've heard about "barehoofing." The first time I heard about it was via forum member barefootpony, who had this to say about how horses are negatively affected by horseshoes:
There's a lot of evidence that horseshoes are damaging in the same way that people shoes are: they restrain the natural expansion and retraction of the hoof as the horse moves, make it more difficult for the horse to feel the ground (thus more stumbling, which potentially can catapult a rider right off), and generally just weaken the hoof. The horse's hoof also has a structure at the center of the sole called the "frog" (it's made of soft tissue sort of like a cuticle), and that structure acts as a pump to keep blood flowing properly through the legs and feet when the horse takes a step. When you shoe, the frog doesn't properly contact the ground, so the horse also suffers from poor circulation.
Informative stuff all around!
Thanks for sharing, Nichole!
Update / Addition from Fran:
Wanted to append to Nichole's story an email and photo I received from Fran who also practices natural horsemanship:
Just wanted to pass this photo along in response/to go along with the recent article submitted by Nichole Bryant, with her VFFs and barefoot horse. Nichole is a friend of mine, we study the same horsemanship program. She did a brilliant job of sharing about natural barefoot in horses, as well as what these shoes have done for her (and for me, too!) , so I'll spare you that ;)
However, I did want to share my own barefootin' picture! The picture attached was taken last April, just after I had trimmed my horse's feet. (I too practice barefoot hoofcare for my horse). I thought the photo would be fun--natural barefoot for all! Hope you enjoy!
The FiveFingers in the picture are Palm/Clay KSOs, I also own a pair of Black Flows that I'm enjoying now that the weather has cooled off! Loving them so much, they've really done wonders for my posture and body awareness!
Here's Fran's feet alongside her horse's "free hooves:"