Years ago, while introducing the whole family to the finer details of owning horses, I had the distinct pleasure of showing off my sheath cleaning skills. Because I had worked at a farm that dealt mainly with breeding, I was used to this not so pretty but oh so necessary aspect of horse ownership. This blog post serves as both a cautionary story with the word “wiener” sprinkled throughout as well as a handy how-to guide. Those who shy away from this task are bound to pay the price.
I paid the price once in the form of a vet bill and awkward conversation with said vet about the frequency of sheath cleaning. Poor Big Mike had trouble urinating and was swelled to the point that I didn’t know what was wrong and made an emergency vet call. Seems that Big is one of those horses that requires more frequent sheath cleaning – I will get into the details about how to tell and what to look for in a moment. Nothing says “I learned my lesson!” like icing down a sheath three times a day and it does provide for some mighty personal questions. About horse wieners none the less.
So let’s get down to the brass
tacks balls of this handy horse guide – because if your horse has a wiener, I’m going to teach you how to clean – er!
First up, WHAT is a sheath?
Sheath: anatomy belonging to a male horse only (both stallions and geldings), it is the “housing” of the penis; when a horse “drops”, he lets the penis come out of the sheath
Let’s take a look at a normal sheath:
And a swollen sheath:
Second, WHY am I cleaning his sheath?
Just like humans, horses shed skin cells and those tend to accumulate in some of the most uncomfortable places like the sheath. Combined with the natural “waxy” secretions from the sebaceous glands found in the skin and dirt (because duh, horses), this creates a substance called “smegma”. Cool sounding but nasty stuff. It’s a black, sticky, waxy build-up that can create problems and irritations that will make for a grumpy and sometimes sick horse. Smegma can build up in the tip of the penis and create a “bean” or large waxy lump that can block the flow of urine. See the lovely image below.
Third, HOW do I tell if his sheath needs cleaned and how often?
This is a matter of discovering whether your horse is a dirty boy or not. Some male horses need to be cleaned once a year, others may need to be cleaned every few months. Some experts believe that stallions are less prone to cleaning because they tend to drop more often during the day which serves as a “self-cleaning” while geldings tend to need sheath cleaning more often. Big needs to be cleaned about every 6 months while Copper only needs it once a year but both are geldings SO this is a matter of keeping track and watching for signs of irritation and mild swelling. Don’t over clean either because you can strip the natural bacteria from the sheath and cause other problems.
Smell is usually one of the key factors – if you can smell your horse’s funk when he drops, then you probably want to clean!
If your horse is straining to urinate, “dropping” but having trouble urinating or retracting his penis, kicking out at the ground, is very hot and/or his sheath is swollen/irritated – call the vet. Your sheath problems may have gone beyond a needed through cleaning to antibiotics for a sheath infection.
Fourth, WHAT do I need to clean his sheath?
- Knowledge – don’t try this out without watching a video or two or asking your vet to help you out the first time
- Warm Water – seriously, would YOU like cold water on your naughty bits?
- Two Buckets – one for the dirty water and one to rinse
- Sheath Cleaner** – personally, after the vet call for Big, I don’t use a sheath cleaner because it can leave a residue behind if you don’t rinse well enough BUT there are sheath cleaners that contain natural ingredients like tea tree oil – DO NOT use a non-sheath cleaner like dish soap and avoid Betadine or Nolvasan because they will dry out the sheath which creates larger problems
- Paper Towels/Cotton Rags/Rolled Cotton
- Gloves – if you aren’t into smegma underneath of your nails, then grab a pair of gloves
Fifth, HOW do I clean his sheath?
Because I am a visual learner, I would suggest watching this video a few times to get an idea of the process. I would advise that EACH HORSE is different and this can be a lengthy process if you have a horse that does not like his belly touched. Also, I want to add that this video only shows one bucket being used, I recommend two – one for dirty water during the process and one for clean water to rinse.
Six, WHAT if I just can’t do this?!?
Call your vet and schedule a cleaning – don’t put this off because of some uncomfortable feelings!
Disclaimer: I am NOT a vet so please take this advice with the understanding that you should contact your vet immediately if you have any questions or concerns!
If you want more (calm down, Veruca), here are two links that will hopefully satisfy your need for wiener cleaner knowledge:
Next time on Horsey How-To, I will explain all about the other gender in regards to personal hygiene – any other topics of interest that you would like to see?