He looks bored to me. He has that Blah Blah Blah look on his face. There are several things you can try to fix this. First is to get WAY more creative and interesting for him. Don't just do the same thing every day, mix it up a lot and be predictably unpredictable. He seems like a left brained introvert to me (since you are familiar with parelli I'll use that term) so use food as a motivator. If you haven't, go find my thread titled Horsenality Do's and Don'ts in the NH section of the forum, I also posted a thread titled Bribe vs. Bonus that I think you will find helpful.
For the most part, your horse is just paying attention to you. When the ears are pricked forward, he may not be.
I was riding a GP dressage horse once and a photographer wanted to pictures of him doing some movements. He asked if I could get him to put his ears forward. I told him that the horse better NOT put his ears forward. If he did, he was likely not listening.
My paint is doing that when I give her voice commands when riding her or she thinks I'm about to. She's just listening to me (she does pin ears too in some situations and you can tell the difference then ).
Okay thanks everyone :) it makes me feel better that he is probably just listening to me rather than being angry or in pain.
I will definitely do that rebecca. He looooves food. Im going to get some ground poles for us to work with so that with switch things up. And I have been trying to do a lot of things outside so things are more interesting for him. He definitely gets bored really easily and is going to keep me on my feet for doing new things.
I have a mare that literally pins her ears when I ask for a canter. She moves into one, but her ears stay back the whole time. Its not that she doesnt like cantering ( she loves it, it takes a while to slow her back down ) and its not that it hurts her ( we had her checked my several vets ) Im just sharing my experience...
IMO I wouldnt be concerned at all, my Reno does the same thing, when I lead him, ride him, lunge him ect he has his ears back, not pinned but back. He also does it in the field a lot too though...I think its kinda like ppl some ppl walk with their arms swaying and some ppl don't. As long as you don't see other signs of aggression or discomfort id say brush it off as just his personality.
I have enclosed 2 pics that kinda show that Reno does the same thing
In the one picture it looks like the longe line is flapping at his cheek bone, that's definitely a reason to be a little annoyed. If his lips are pursed, or tight and his nostrils are flaring you have a problem. Is he a new horse? Some horses do that when they are unsure. Pinning ears is a dominance thing. It shows other horses they mean business. If he's never shown signs of aggression I wouldnt worry about it.
His ears don't really looked pinned. When my horse is listening to me he moves his ears back like that but they aren't pinned they are just moving in my direction to listen and if he hears something behind him he does same thing looks like your horse in pics. Unless your horse has a sore part of body when moving around but he would show other signs. Doesn't look pinned, just listening.