Although 26-plus horses are a fundamental portion of Cheryl Reyenger’s business, she says they are more like pets — pampered pets at that — than livestock.
When the temperatures begin to warm up, the fans in the horses stalls are turned on and their water troughs are filled just so.
“If it gets too hot, they won’t drink it, so we only fill it up about half way at first,” said Reyenger, owner of Rivendell Farm in Gainesville.
“Then we go and top it off once they drink it down some.”
And when it comes to exercising the animals, their comfort comes first.
“We generally start (letting them out of their stalls) at night, when it starts cooling off,” Reyenger said.
“And we try not to ride them during the hottest part of the day — we either try to ride them first thing in the morning or later in the evening.”
As the temperatures climb this week, the Georgia Department of Agriculture is urging more pet and livestock owners to take a page out of Reyenger’s book. According to the department, animals should have access to lots of cool, fresh water and plenty of shade if they must be outside. The department also encourages the spaying and neutering of pets as a way of keeping them close to home, instead of out roaming the streets where they could potentially become dehydrated.
Owners of long-haired pets may want to consider giving their animals a shorter, cooler cut. However, animals can also get sunburned, so some hair is preferable to none.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in Gainesville will peak this week at 98 degrees on Thursday. The expected high for today is 95 degrees with humidity in the mid-40th percentile. When the combined temperature and humidity levels reach 150, animal owners should take extra precautions, agriculture experts say.
Excessive panting, rapid breathing and a rapid heart rate could all be signs that your animal is in stress from the heat.
Because the riding and competition horses at Seldom Seen Farm in Clermont need to be acclimated to higher temperatures, owner Elfi Marcella has developed a special routine to cool them down if they get too hot.
“We wash them down with cold water (mixed with alcohol),” said Marcella.
“The alcohol increases the evaporation rate and helps cool them down quicker.”