Sunday, April 8, 2007

Sheath Cleaning for Geldings and Stallions - Arabian Horses

There's lots of discussion about whether the sheath of a male horse should be cleaned on a regular basis or not. And lots of people just have no clue that such a task should even be considered. So here is my two cents worth on the cleaning of sheathes in Arabian horses or any other male horses for that matter.

I think that the question of to clean or not to clean can be directly affected by the enviroment of the horse. My horses are all stalled so I don't know anything about the status of outside horses, but I find the tidy horses don't need cleaning like the untidy ones. I also found that for the brief period of time that we used pellets for bedding, I had more sheath related problems than on white shavings. Cedar shavings also cause problems here. That leads me to believe that the status of irritants withing the horse's sheath is directly related to what he lays down in.

A squeaky clean penis at all times is not good for the horse. He needs the natural lubricants provided by smegma. However dirt, sand and other debris are attracted and trapped by the smegma and are as big a problem as a lack of natural lubricants. Foreign matter in the smegma can also alter it's usefullness. What that means is you have to judge each horse on it's individual circumstances. All male horses should probably be checked once or twice a year to see what their individual status might be.

Some horses are more sensitive to cleaning than others. Usually the light skin is more sensitive than dark skin. Red skin in an area that should be light skin indicates irritation and should be cleaned but gently.

To minimize soreness and swelling, use a good sheath cleaner and let it set and soften up the smegma. If the smegma is stuck forcing it to come loose will make the horse sore. It takes longer to keep applying the cleaner and allowing it to sit but in the long run the horse will be more comfortable.

When cleaning the sheath it is important to look for a bean. The bean is a pale, kidney-shaped accumulation of smegma in a small pouch just inside the urethra. So looking at the end of the horse's penis you will see the opening (urethra) in the center. All around it is a small pouch, the bean will be in there. Pushing gently with the end of your thumb into that pouch will usually push it up and out.

Some horses will drop to be cleaned, others will not and some will only drop partially. Some people let their vet do the cleaning. Others get a tranquilizer from their vet so they can do the cleaning themselves. I prefer to teach my horses to drop and do the cleaning without the use of tranquilizers. When using tranquilizers on male horses it is important to know that some relaxants can permanently cause the horse to no longer be able to retract his penis up into the sheath. This is rare but it does happen, so you need to be informed of the risks with the particular tranquilizer you might use.

There are some horses who might experience pain and swelling after cleaning the sheath. Symptoms like this should resolve within a few days, if not contact your vet. for more information on sheath cleanining


  1. Thanks for this post! Its unfortunate how many horse owners don't realize that sheath cleaning is an important part of horse care. I met one gelding that was having difficulty urinating and was extremly uncomfortable. After helping them clean him they admitted they had never done this in the time they had owned him (5 years!) They didn't know it was an issue. Poor guy was in a great deal of pain from having so much accumulated junk in there. They thought the swelling was from a bee sting... I would like to see vets ask owners if they need this done maybe at spring shot time or something along those lines. Some people just don't know others are not comfortable doing it or are just nervous (can't blame them!) I'm glad you are shedding some light on this unpleasant but necessary part of horse care.

  2. I would love to teach Kaswyn to drop for sheath cleaning! He's very penis shy. If you walk up to his stall while he's peeing he tries to stop the stream for a second and then sucks back up into his sheath as fast as possible. I clean his sheath myself, and it's a pain because he won't drop AT ALL and I'm in there up to my elbow.

  3. LOL great subject MiKael. I have my horses (studs) stalled most of the time too so I find that I only have to clean them when breeding season comes along. It is usually quite easy so I am lucky.


  4. Interesting. That is a great link too. I have not had the guts to do it myself and pay the vet. Ahh, another reason to love mares. :)

  5. Love my mares! I do have two colts though and now that the weather is warm it is time to teach them the ins and outs of being a boy @ our farm ;)