I can see your point there, sorry about the going off thing. I want re-shoeing him to be the last resort...gosh this would be so much easier if I could get ahold of the last owner. One question...He doesnt break gate if we go to a paved road and let him gait on it for a while (we don't leave him on it long though because he's barefoot) SO wouldnt that imply that he's not sore? AND on the dirt roads (thats where we ride its not actually trails like in the woods or anything) if you make him get behind and he gets a little upset he will not break gait while catching up. So I thinking it may be a laziness thing...but he didnt do it before we got him so UGGGHHHH Im at a loss. He is also ridden more now though than he was before. Sorry for rambling...
Pavement is even and steady. It's not a place barefoot horses usually show soreness, unless they're sore because they've worn their hoof-walls down too much. It does wear more on the hooves than most ground tho, so keeping him off it is a good idea - unless you think he needs an extra trimming ;)
Dirt roads?..Like where cars go as well? (just want to be sure of the type of road.. do you have a picture?
) I'm not sure how much they differ from our dirt roads, but the ones here is one of the worst places for a sore, barefoot horse to go, since it's not as even as a paved road, they work like sand paper and there are small pebbles/stones/dirt that presses on the sole, especially at the side or the middle of the road.
Soft paths or grass would be ideal. Regular arenas usually wears on the hooves as well (My Crow didn't need shoes untill he went onto the arena for training a few times, it wore hos hooves down).
A stressed horse tends to get pacey/gaiting and might ignore pain. Tho, a sore horse could also gait better since it's a form of stress, so...
Without seeing the horse, it COULD be lazyness.
But I think he's slightly sore. It could be the lack of protecting shoes that makes his sole sore, or he could just be wearing the hooves down faster than they grow.. in the latter case you'll be without doubt in a while when he starts to bleed. But let's make sure that's not going to happen, right? ;) (I have seen a horse that came home from a ride, bleeding from 3 hooves. That rider had complained about the (non-gaited) horse being nervous/tensed after removing the shoes, but blamed it on increased blood-circuling and the sickness leaving the hooves after the shoes were removed or something.. :3 I admit tho that she had been more or less brainwashed by one of these people making a living on ''trimming the ultra-special barefoot way is the best for all horses and shoes are the ultimate evil''-theories.. but nevertheless it's a reason to check his hooves daily to make sure he's not starting to wear them down to the sole and further. Don't worry, there's quite a bit before it actually starts bleeding, I see that you care about your horse, so you'd surely notice that in time even if I didn't say anything about it.
There are barefoot-shoes/boots that you put on only for riding. Personally I think that keeping the horse shoed is better for the horse by various reasons, but if you're that much against re-shoeing him, maybe it's an option for you? If he starts gaiting again with them, you can be sure he was sore. If not, he might still be sore of course, or find those shoes strange, but then there's more of a doubt to it.