Yes, the snow is gone, the sun is shining, and it’s time to clean your gelding’s sheath! This topic is not exactly on the theme of this blog, but then again, it so is because Storm was actually having some behavioral problems because his sheath was not clean. It’s a task that us gelding owners sometimes forget. But once you know, you should get into an annual habit, just to avoid infections and discomfort.
The sheath, out in the wild, is naturally cleaned through breeding. But with domestication comes geldings, and this is why we need to be responsible and thoughtful stewards. You would be surprised how much ‘crap’ gets up there and what kind of behavioral and physical problems arise from lax hygiene in that area.
I was really confused when my farrier and horse health consultant, Margaret, said Storm’s sheath needed cleaning. “You mean I actually have to stick my hand right up there??” Yes. And she showed me how. And now I’m going to show you how. Don’t be alarmed, this is a reality that may open your eyes.
You will need:
- A bucket of warm (not hot!) water. Mix this with a little bit of Castile soap. Not lots. You don’t want suds, but a small squirt. I use Castile soap over other sheath soaps because A) It’s cheap and B) It’s really gentle! It’s mostly oils and there are no drying chemicals that could cause irritation and burning. You can buy it at any organic or natural store and some grocery stores.
- A rag that you can throw away afterwards. This job is dirty. It will stink. The stench is not easily washed out, so I just throw the rag I used away. Use a soft rag if you have. A piece of old flannel pajamas or something works well.
- A calm horse! It’s best to do this before the flies come out, or in a place where there are minimal bugs. Your gelding must be ultimately relaxed in order to let you do this. You are about to wash his most private of privates. I was lucky, Storm actually liked it, but most horses won’t be so understanding. Working with your horse before using good leading practices will help. Also, using approach and retreat to get him used to you in and around his sheath is beneficial. Bugs can also make your horse like you down there because you can scratch the scabs for him!
Now for the instructions. I’ll try to be delicate with my terms.
- Wet your hand and go find the ‘crap’. If you have never done this before, likelihood has it there will be a boat load of ‘shrapnel’ in there. Basically you run your fingers inside the flap that is around his junk. You’ll probably find some sticky stuff in there, but take out with your fingers what comes out easily. Go as far up as you can while avoiding his penis (be gentle!! If you want your horse to appreciate this, you can’t be poking it accidentally). When Margaret did Storm, her whole hand was almost all up there. See why you need a calm and relaxed horse?
- Wring out the rag and wash. Like washing a counter, the rag should be fairly wet. Go up there with the rag, just like you did with your hand, except now you’re getting that sticky stuff. Be sure to keep rinsing the rag often. When it’s really bad up there, it will look like you’re excavating tar. Note: You may have to get a new bucket of water and soap half way through.
- Use clean water to rinse. After you’re sure you gotten every little piece and crumb, take your rag and some clean, non-soapy water and rinse out his sheath. If your gelding is exceptionally good, you can use a hose. But I don’t recommend this. Just use your rag to rinse the soap out.
- Dry sheath. Wring your rag out fervently and dry everywhere that you washed.
Voila!!! You’re done!! It’s actually not hard at all if your horse is comfortable with you in that area. It is a 30+ minute job though. Margaret told me that if it’s really bad, it can take up to an hour and a half. With good preparation and regular maintenance, you’ll be through this job before your neighbors can ask why you have your hand up your horse’s privates.