Head Shaking Before Meals
Our 20-year-old mare, a BLM Mustang, violently shakes her head up, down and sideways while she is waiting to be fed. Is she just impatient, or is it something else?
Great question, Nancy! Your horse’s head shaking might be what we in the behavior world call a superstitious behavior. It is possible that she has incorrectly “learned” that a head shake results in food. This occurs when an animal performs a behavior that is immediately followed by something she wants. With superstitious behaviors, it is simply a matter of coincidence that the behavior was followed by something that the horse wants, but the animal has nonetheless made the association that X behavior results in Y reward. Since, in your case, your horse is performing this behavior at dinner time, she is constantly reinforced for the behaviorthus strengthening her superstitious association.