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Cleaning Sheaths: Yes or No

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  • Cleaning Sheaths: Yes or No

    Hi everybody! I was giving Leroy a bath today after our lunging session and realized his sheath looked particularly nasty. I am used to riding mares (granted I haven’t ridden a horse in about 8 years and Leroy is new to our lives so I’m learning from scratch again!) and so sheath cleaning is far beyond what I am used to and I never thought about it until bath time today when I was rinsing him after a nice long conditioner soak. I have read why people do and why people don’t do them. I was thinking about maybe just having my vet clean his sheath when he comes out to give his shots a boost/have a general look over to determine if there’s anything I need to watch (I’m terribly anxious about every little thing as he is my first horse and lord it’s like what I’m guessing having your first baby is like haha! So I want the doc to give him a good look and make sure he has no ulcers and see maybe if the diet I have planned for him is a smart choice or not). So what is the general consensus here? Is sheath cleaning something I must do consistently (I’m not sure I want to dig around his intimate areas to be so honest haha, I just met the guy and granted I buy his dinner and pay his bills I’m not too sure I’m keen to rolling up the sleeves and cleaning his business constantly), or would it be wise to have it done professionally maybe twice a year (or perhaps even three times), or should I just not have it done at all unless it appears his bits cause him discomfort? Some say it is bad as it disrupts the natural skin protectant, others say it should be a daily chore, some also say they only do it twice a year. I’m not sure what to do but I surely don’t want him to be uncomfortable and if it’s the way to go I’ll do it but I just didn’t want to risk upsetting the natural cycle of his skin and making it worse or anything. I’m at a standstill y’all! Any and all friendly advice is very much appreciated by both me and my Leroy boy!

  • #2
    For your first foray into sheath cleaning, I would highly recommend having the vet do it, with you being in attendance. Especially if this is a new horse to you - you have no idea how he will act. Some horses are fine having hands up in their business, while others are not. Some horses have to be mildly sedated. Watch the process - ask questions. Best way to learn.

    I'm of the "yes, clean the sheath" club. I know there are some that say leave it be. I don't necessarily do it on a schedule. I do it as it is necessary. Cleaning a sheath too often or with the wrong products can really upset the natural balance of things, and you don't want that.

    I like Excalibur Sheath Cleaner and warm water. Some people just use warm water. Some use warm water and a very mild dish soap. Just don't use any antibacterial products or Betadine or anything like that inside a sheath.

    Good luck!
    ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


    • #3
      Agree to have the vet clean him the first time or two and you be in attendance for instruction

      Some geldings are dirtier than others because it's just who they are.

      Some geldings seem to become dirtier after they develop metabolic issues. I've had that happen with two horses who developed metabolic issues.

      i don't used anything but tap water and a wet wash cloth in the warm months as I have to clean every 5-6 weeks. I won't check for beans in the urethra, unless the horse is dropping a lot.

      Because I have to check them often, I also won't go further in than a little beyond my wrist.

      Every day, during fly season, I will wipe around the "entrance" area of the sheath just to keep odor down, thus deterring fly activity. For this I use a paper towel sprayed with Vetericyn as it does seem to help and has a bit of a comforting affect on them

      My horses are 24 & 25 and have been with me forever, so they are very good about being cleaned.

      These remaining two horses have both always been good. However, my two elders that I laid to rest within the last five years, always did mildly object. They never offered to kick my head off but pinned ears, big eyeballs, raised hind leg said it all, lollol; RIP Duke & Streeter


      • #4
        Generic KY Jelly, water and gloves - that's all you need. Yes it needs to be cleaned - how often depends on how dirty it gets. And you need to look for the bean. Have the vet show you when they are out.

        (mares need to be cleaned too as they can build up a lot of gunk also)

        Years ago I was at a major university barn and the barn manager told people never to clean them. She blamed the cleaning for the blood that we found on one school horse. Turned out he had penile cancer and had to be put down a few months later. So it's a good idea to check your guy for anything odd looking just in case.
        "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England


        • #5
          Our vets clean sheets once a year at spring shots and teeth floating time.

          Unless a horse has a problem, that seems to be enough to keep ahead of the bean, that can get too large if not taken out at least once a year.

          That is extra important if you have a grey horse or paint with much white, as they may have growths starting under there that may need to be monitored.


          • #6
            It really does depend on the horse. Without getting too graphic, I had a gelding that would "respond" to my mare. When he did, the flakes would pop off and, if he had a bean, it would pop out. As he aged and became metabolic (as walkinthewalk mentioned) he had to have the gunk and beans removed for him.


            • #7
              Depends on the horse. We have some that are done twice a year and some that are done every 6 weeks. Ask your vet to teach you the first time.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bluey View Post
                Our vets clean sheets once a year at spring shots and teeth floating time.

                Unless a horse has a problem, that seems to be enough to keep ahead of the bean, that can get too large if not taken out at least once a year.

                That is extra important if you have a grey horse or paint with much white, as they may have growths starting under there that may need to be monitored.
                Dang my vet makes me clean my own sheets!

                But yes our routine is similar to Bluey's, cleaning sheaths a couple of times a year and checked for beans by the vet when they're otherwise sedated.
                One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
                William Shakespeare


                • #9
                  Originally posted by ohmyheck View Post

                  Dang my vet makes me clean my own sheets!

                  But yes our routine is similar to Bluey's, cleaning sheaths a couple of times a year and checked for beans by the vet when they're otherwise sedated.
                  Some times, when we load a horse in the trailer, they drop and then you can do a quick swipe and bean cleanup, just doesn't count as a real cleaning, as at the vet clinic and a vet checking it all out well.


                  • #10
                    I don't do extensive cleaning all the time, that just doesn't make much sense to this biologist. I do check for beans a couple times a year & will clean off any big chunks or significant gunk on the outside.

                    I just use generic KY & a glove. KY will not burn your horse or cause any irritation if left on, unlike Excalibur, so no water required. If you want to do a thorough clean/inspection, smear on the KY before a ride so the warmth & movement can loosen everything up, then clean afterwards.

                    Tips: horse will appreciate it if you trim your fingernails, especially when removing beans. If you haven't done it before, have your vet walk you through it. Also, work with your horse beforehand so they are safely acclimated to you rooting around in there. Even my young, sensitive TB quickly learned that I was gentle & could be trusted to feel him up. I don't need anyone sedated for any of it.

                    It's easy & I would say I spend an hour a year or less on it. Of course, I visually inspect whenever things are hanging out, as well as watching urine streams. As mentioned, doubly important if you have a grey, to watch for growths.
                    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                    Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                    We Are Flying Solo


                    • #11
                      Allow the vet to do this the first time, then go from there. If the horse is sensitive to this, have the vet do it twice a year. If you can do this, use generic KY Jelly, gloves and warm water. Try to stay away from any sheath cleaning products containing tea tree oil in them, as some horses are allergic to it. In those cases, the sheath swells shut, the horse can't drop to urinate, and you end up having the vet come out to treat for colic. A friend of mine ended up treating her gelding for colic three times over a very short period of time because of using a commercial sheath cleaning product containing tea tree oil before she put 2 + 2 together and figured out what she had done to him. It never occurred to her to tell the vet she had cleaned the sheath with that cleaner, so they just kept calling him back out for colic. Expensive!
                      "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                      • #12
                        I have 3 geldings. The oldest is a 32 yo grey pony. He gets cleaned 4-6 times a year. He has a few growths in his sheath that I monitor. He doesn't love the process, but he doesn't object either. The next is an 11 yo OTTB. If you give him a treat he will drop. He is by far the easiest to clean. He gets done every 3-4 months depending on how things look. The other is a 6 yo OTTB gelding. The first year I had him he STRONGLY objected to my hand going anywhere near his goods. I had theft out to do teeth and while he was sedated we cleaned him. He still STRONGLY objected, but we got it done. He was really gross and had a huge bean and lots of scaling along his penis. No wonder he was objecting to the idea. I worked with him on allowing me to place my hand near there, then there, then using a syringe to place OB lube in his sheath, to me actually placing my hand in his sheath. 3 years later, he let me clean his sheath without complaint and actually dropped while I was cleaning. I will keep working with him to be sure he understands it shouldn't be a painful or scary thing. I try to work in that general area, although not truly "cleaning" him monthly. I keep the actual cleaning to 3-4 times a year.

                        I use OB Lube and exam gloves. I ordered a gallon of the OB lube because I got tired of the smaller bottle being chronically out of stock at TSC. I use a generous amount of OB lube and remove what grime I can and check for and remove the bean. If they are really dirty/scaly, I liberally apply the OB lube within the sheath and then let it do it's job.

                        If you have never cleaned a sheath before and you don't know how your gelding will respond, I would get the vet to do it the first time. You can watch and take notes and be sure to ask how to position yourself to be safe.


                        • #13
                          I cleaned my bigger pony's sheath a couple of times, but discovered that I couldn't get my hand comfortably in for my small pony. So I started having the vet do it when he sedated them to float their teeth. After a while, I figured out that there really wasn't much there to clean, so I started just doing a quick wipe when they dropped. I never did go back to having the boys' sheaths cleaned.

                          Invariably, whenever I was wiping them down, someone would come up my driveway and ask what I was doing. Reminds me of the hilarious sheath cleaning instruction post "Mr. Hand" that went around forums years ago.



                          • #14
                            If the vet is sedating for teeth, I have them do it at the same time. My gelding isn't prone to dropping, so I have to get in there with a rubber glove, but he doesn't seem to mind. I get a good dose of sheath cleaner in there to loosen everything up, then use terry wash cloths to get the gunk out (rinsing thoroughly with water and finishing with a clean, wet wash cloth). I've only gotten a really defined bean once or twice, but he doesn't seem to have issues, so apparently he just doesn't really develop them. He only gets done 1-2x a year.


                            • #15
                              I use ky jelly. Have dentist do it when teeth are done and he is sedated, and i will do a quick check every 6 months. KY jelly won't irritate it like excalibur can if not rinsed well.


                              • #16
                                Concur that you should have the vet to and show you how to do it correctly. After that, inspect and clean as required. The vet can also show you what's acceptable and when it's not.

                                Good luck!

                                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo


                                • #17
                                  I’ve had my boy for almost 13 years. He doesn’t object if he’s dropped and I clean off a bit and check for bean. But other than that I think he’s been “cleaned” once. Doesn’t smell and so far no issues.
                                  Not my monkeys, not my circus.


                                  • #18
                                    On a related note, after 21 years of horse ownership, I discovered my gelding loves to have the sides of his sheath scratched. He lifts his leg like a dog when I scratch him. Then I found one of my mares does the same thing if I scratch the sides of her udder (and she doesn't appreciate when I clean the crud from her udder!)
                                    That's fine, many of us have slid down this slippery slope and became very happy (and broke) doing it. We may not have a retirement, but we have memories ...


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thank you everybody! Who would’ve thought a discussion about cleaning horse junk would bring so many people together haha! I will be sure to ask my vet to show me how it’s done, I just would hate to make my boy uncomfortable with me around him since he’s so new but I noticed the gunk around his sheath and I doubt it has been actually cleaned in about 3+ years so I wanted to see what would be my healthiest options to keep him clean but not hating me for poking around his Netherlands We’re hoping to have the vet out in October to give him his boosters for his shots and have the vet look over him to see if there’s anything we need to watch and so his new vet can become acclimated to what Leroy’s norms are and all of that fun stuff so I’ll be sure to ask for pointers on proper sheath care then! For now I’ll rinse and try to wipe with a soft cloth on the outside if he’ll allow me, but I won’t push his boundaries should he be opposed, but I’ll leave the real handsy stuff for when the vet arrives haha!

                                      And KY jelly? Who would’ve thunk! I for sure was thinking maybe Vaseline would be recommended but I’m guessing KY is likely a water based lubricant so it’s likely a lot gentler than a greasy Vaseline. I’ll be sure to buy some of that (hoping I don’t blurt out “Its for my horse” to the cashier at the store ). Ah equestrians, what a breed of people we are lol!


                                      • #20
                                        I agree with what everyone else said. I'll add my experience:

                                        I clean my horse's sheath maybe once a week because crud builds up. To to this in the winter, I reach my fingers in and pick out the accessible chunks in the skin (especially on the belly side) encircling his penis. In the warm weather, we have hot/cold water in the washrack, and I'll run maybe 100 degree water ( very warm to your skin, not hot) and spray directly into his sheath. Many male horses are stimulated by 100 degree water in their sheath because they'll respond like they're mating (dropping) without the hormones and behavior. This'll loosen up the crud and encourage some horse to drop (like mine). I use a facecloth and warm water, or just my hand, to rub away the crud. I don't use products. He'll let me check for beans because he's an exhibitionist at heart.

                                        This probably sounds weird to some but I think this is an important part of male horse care.

                                        As you're teaching your horse about this, I suggest doing when sedated for teeth and try using very warm water to encourage him to drop.

                                        Good luck!
                                        Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation