Horse Nips and Makes Ugly Face
I have a seven-year-old quarter horse gelding. I have owned him for about a year and a half, and ever since last winter he has been giving "ugly" faces. Pinning his ears back at almost EVERYBODY he sees. Not usually at me, but almost every day he will wind up doing it. I didn't think anything of it until he started nipping at me and other people. Not full-on biting, but he will pin his ears back, give you a quick look and then just nip whatever part of you he can get.
When I'm alone with him he never does any of this, and when I am riding him he has his ears all happy and never pinned back. I can't seem to figure out what triggers his behavior. I used to think it was when I played with his mouth, but now even if I'm brushing him or standing in front of him he will do this to me and other people.
Do you have any suggestions, or maybe know why he is doing this?
The “why” is “because it feels good.” Simple answer, I know…but somehow, your gelding's annoying behavior is being reinforced. Keep a log of when the behavior occurs, what the context is and what the response of the human target is. Once you see a pattern emerge, you can better deduce what is reinforcing the behavior and can then eliminate that stimuli. For example, it is possible that when he nips, the human stops doing whatever she was doing to himso he has learned the way to stop (x) is to nip.