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Sheath Cleaning for Horses: Steps & Facts
If you own a male horse, you might need to clean its sheath from time to time. This is a very intrusive process involving reaching your hand into your horse’s genitals and removing the buildup. For first-timers, this can be an intimidating and somewhat gross process. But if your horse needs its sheath cleaned, then you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Before you do, let’s take a closer look at how to clean your horse’s sheath, and when this type of action is necessary or appropriate.
Before we start discussing the ins and outs of cleaning a horse sheath, there are some terms we need to define so we can more easily discuss the matter.
Smegma is a substance produced by a male horse to offer protection and lubrication for their penis. Some horses make moist smegma while others produce smegma that’s dry and flaky. The amount of smegma produced also varies widely among individuals.
Smegma can accumulate in a depression at the end of the horse’s penis. This depression is called the urethral fossa, and when the smegma builds up here it can form what’s referred to as a bean.
Is Sheath Cleaning Necessary?
For many years, sheath cleaning was considered a necessity for any male horse. Most horse owners would clean their horse’s sheath a few times a year, though some performed this task far more often. The real question is: does your horse need its sheath cleaned?
Stallions in the wild don’t have anyone to clean their sheath, yet they remain in good health. Ironically, wild stallions actually have conception rates around 85%, which is 15% higher than the average for domestic stallions.
Many people believe that smegma builds up and can cause your horse various problems. Furthermore, it’s commonly believed that a large bean can block the horse’s urethra and make it difficult for them to urinate. But according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, this is not the case.
The smegma on your horse’s penis is protective. It provides a protective covering for the penis as well as lubricating it. When you remove the smegma, it removes your horse’s natural protection and lubrication.
Most of the time, for healthy male horses, sheath cleaning is unnecessary. In fact, it can even be harmful.
- Related Read: Rain Rot in Horses
When Should You Clean Your Horse’s Sheath?
Still, there are sometimes when cleaning your horse’s sheath is in their best interest. If your horse has suffered a cut or scrape around its genitals, you might need to clean the sheath to keep the area sanitary. Following surgery to remove a cancerous growth, this procedure is also recommended. Certain skin conditions can also be cause for cleaning your horse’s sheath, such as equine herpesvirus or squamous cell carcinoma.
If you’ve determined that your horse needs its sheath cleaned, there are a few supplies you’ll need to gather before you get started.
There are many different soaps you can use, but you’ll need to pick something gentle and mild. Some of the best options include betadine soap, Ivory, or Excalibur soap. Alternatively, you can simply use K-Y Jelly, which you won’t have to rinse off. Soaps will leave a residue that you must thoroughly rinse to prevent it from irritating your horse when it dries.
You’ll be reaching your hand into your horse’s genitals for this, so you’ll definitely want some protection. A horse’s smegma has a strong and not so pleasant odor that will stick to your skin. If you attempt this without gloves, you should expect to have a strong and strange odor stuck to your hands for several days at least.
Hose or Spray Bottle
Some people use a hose for rinsing, though this can often create too much pressure. A spray bottle filled with water is a better option. If you use K-Y jelly instead of soap, you won’t need to rinse the area afterward. But if you use soap, be sure you have plenty of clean water on hand to rinse everything off when you’re done.
In order to clean your horse’s sheath, you’ll have to get their penis to extract. There are two main ways to do this.
Some Basic Tips
We’re about to walk you through the steps you must take to clean your horse’s sheath. But first, there are a few important tips we can offer that will make the entire task a bit easier for both you and your horse.
Trim Your Nails
Before you get started, take a few minutes to trim your nails and make sure you won’t accidentally cut, scratch, or scrape your horse. Remember, your hand is going to be inside your horse’s genitals; a very sensitive place.
You never want to get rough while working with your horse’s genitals. If you do, you, your horse, or both could end up injured.
Take Your Time
Don’t be in a rush. Take your time and make sure you do everything in the proper manner with plenty of care.
Cleaning the Sheath
Once you’ve determined that your horse truly needs its sheath cleaned and all of the necessary supplies are gathered, it’s time to get started.
It’s not recommended that you clean your horse’s sheath without reason. Though many used to perform this task regularly, it can actually be detrimental for your horse since the smegma you’re removing serves a protective role. Still, if your horse does need to have its sheath cleaned, now you know how to do it in a safe and effective manner so that neither you nor the horse will get hurt.
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Featured Image: Stephane Debove, Shutterstock
An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.