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Equine Sheath Cleaning

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If you want to draw a crowd at your stable, clean your horse's sheath. For some reason this private function draws people out of the woodwork. It might gross non-horsepeople out, but it needs to be done for your gelding's health and hygiene. Many horses don't like having their privates cleaned, so it might take some time and effort to get yours used to it.

The Sheath

The sheath surrounds your horse's penis. He can let his penis hang out of the sheath, or retract it inside. Smegma, dirt and secretions from the penis collect in the sheath, requiring removal approximately every six months. You don't want to clean your horse's sheath too often, because there's beneficial bacteria inside it, but you don't want to neglect it either.

The Process

Purchase a commercial sheath cleaner at your local tack store or online. Don't use antibacterial products made for other purposes—they'll also get rid of the "good" bacteria, so your horse's sheath will get dirtier in the long run. You'll need a bucket of warm water, a sponge, and surgical gloves. (You can do without the latter if you don't mind the ick factor.) If your horse drops his penis easily, you're golden, but if he refuses to drop it, just get up into the sheath with a hand with sheath cleaner on it. Lather him up well, then use the wet sponge to get the gunk off. Keep rinsing the sponge and changing the water in the bucket as it gets dirty. Once he's clean, rinse his sheath thoroughly by using a clean sponge and clean water. If your horse is calm and lets you, stick a hose gently into the sheath for rinsing.


Once you've gotten the gunk off his penis, it's time to remove the "beans." These are collections of smegma that form hard lumps in the pockets of the penile tip. The beans can get quite large and there might be more than one of them. Gently hold the head of the penis, looking at those small pockets. With light pressure, you can force the beans out. Large beans can keep his urine from flowing properly.


Even if you're wearing surgical gloves while cleaning your horse's sheath, clip your nails short. If you hurt him, your horse may refuse to cooperate in future sheath-cleaning attempts. If sheath-cleaning isn't one of your horse's favorite activities but he doesn't become dangerous, clean him after you've ridden and he's a bit tired. He might behave better than if he's rarin' to go.


If you just can't bring yourself to do this deed, or if your horse is completely uncooperative, you can pay your vet to clean the sheath. It's a good idea if your horse kicks out or become unruly—there's no need for you to injure yourself. Your vet can sedate him and get him cleaned up. If your horse requires sedation for other routine work, such as teeth floating, you might be able to combine both procedures into one veterinary farm call.