Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Temple Grandin

Last week I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Temple Grandin when she spent a day at our research farm. If you are not familiar with Dr. Grandin, she's had a huge influence on the livestock industry with her innovative designs of livestock handling facilities, is a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, and has conducted a great deal of research on animal behavior and management. She has also authored numerous journal articles and books, and is a consultant on facility design, livestock handling and animal welfare around the world. I've read one of her books and found it absolutely fascinating. So it was quite an experience actually getting to hear her talk about her thoughts and research results. She spent the day visiting the various species' units, and it was so much fun talking to her about our horses and facilities!

If you have not read Dr. Grandin's book "Animals in Translation", I highly recommend it, and I'm planning on reading "Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals" as soon as I can. Of course, the movie about her life on HBO was also great, as evidenced by the multiple Emmy wins on Sunday night! And it was pretty cool seeing her live on TV at the Emmy Awards on Sunday night. I've got to think she had to just about fly directly from St Louis to California to make it to the show! What a privilege that she made time in her schedule for us.

Anyway, Dr. Grandin has remarkable insight into animal behavior, due to the similarities in perception and thought that she shares with animals. For instance, being autistic, Dr. Grandin thinks in pictures, not in words as most of us do, and research indicates that animals also think in pictures. This, as well as other unique characteristics due to the autism, enables her to look at the world and understand how animals perceive their surroundings, and share these observations with those of us who are not as in tune with what the animals see and how they react to what they see. I have to admit, owning and riding a very spooky horse (he's named "Boo" for a reason, after all) has been an education for me on viewing the world from a prey animal's perspective, but Dr. Grandin does an excellent job of verbalizing how and why animals react and behave the way they do. I think anyone who spends any time working with animals would benefit from Dr. Grandin's books or lectures. I know I did!

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