Paying attention to details is crucial when considering unusual equine behaviors, their causes, and how to manage them.

Case in point: A new addition to the Louisville, Ky., zoo’s zebra herd had been skittish and generally experiencing a tough time acclimating to his new home.

Temple Grandin, PhD, featured speaker at the 2013 American College of Theriogenology (ACT) Symposia and Conference, held in Louisville Aug.  7-10, stopped in at the zoo, observed, and asked some questions. She recognized that the zebra had reason for not relaxing: an adjacent lion exhibit.

"Only a certain zebra had trouble," Grandin explained to a veterinary audience in her Aug. 9 presentation, in which she emphasized the importance of factoring in such specifics when handling livestock. "There is individual difference in animal behavior. It was one particular zebra; he had lived in a much more wild (situation with) less human contact."

So she advised that zoo facility managers install some shrubs so that this zebra could hide and feel protected from the big cats.

Grandin designs livestock handling facilities and is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She’s authored more than 400 papers and seven books and was recently the focus of an HBO movie highlighting her journey as a visionary in her field with autism. While she focused much of her ACT presentation on production livestock, such as pigs and cattle, she shared tips from her experiences managing horses as well.

"When you have a behavior problem with an animal, (what’s most important is) getting a good history,” she said