Monday, June 2, 2008

Sheath Cleaning: How I do it

Everyone who owns a gelding faces the task of sheath cleaning from time to time. This terrified me when I first learned of it. We have to do WHAT? I thought I would write this blog post as a how-to in case there are others out there who were mind-boggled by the very idea. I have become pretty adept at it over time and I pride myself that my horses enjoy it and have a positive experience. And really, it is like changing diapers: there's a yuck factor, but the result is a good feeling of cleanliness and good hygiene.

SO: First I assemble everything I'll be needing. I use fresh unused tack sponges because they are small and soft; I use a sheath cleaning product, a bucket of warm water, a plastic glove, and a dose of aloe vera to finish off.

The longer the glove you have, the better. If you can get those vet exam gloves that come up to your elbow, you are lucky. This is because the instructions on the sheath-cleaning product I use are most amusing: "Gently pull the horse's penis out of the sheath..."; yes well, if there's a horse who will let you do this I have not met him or heard of him. You will be reaching your entire arm up into his body to find the shy little guy.

Gloves are important though:

I spend a fair amount of time just conditioning the horse to my contact in his privacy regions; if I've never cleaned a particular horse, then I might devote one whole session to just conditioning this contact and postpone the actual work until a later date. Lots of rewards for good behavior are involved; pats, GoodBoys, treats if appropriate for the individual horse (not for mouthy-monsters).

Important: All the while you are working, keep your legs out of kick range. I've never been kicked in a cleaning process but I have had a little hind leg lifting action and I never take my eyes completely off the hind legs. When I see a leg move, I adjust what I am doing and ask for quiet legs.

Then I dampen the whole region just inside with warm water and again, gradual is good. Then the cleaning product (I use Excalibur partly because of its great Freudian name, partly because it works well and smells nice) goes in and it likes to sit for awhile. During this time I might groom or otherwise comfort the horse and be relaxing to him. If you can, reach all the way past the boundary you will feel (a wall of tissue) and get into the inner sanctum with your cleaning product and your sponge.

Then warm water and a lot of laundering of the whole canal. Excalibur will suds up and start to work as you work it in, and you'll see things letting loose and frothing out as you work.

The hardest part for me is to extract the so-called bean, a deposit of gummy gunk which is actually inside the head of the penis. The reason why this is hard is that the bean is hard to feel, the horse really doesn't care for this activity, and you are up to your shoulder in the horse's anatomy if your guys are like mine (private). But persist and you can get it out, and it's rewarding to know you have helped your horse avoid potential health problems in this area.

I finish off with an internal application of aloe vera for several reasons: it's nice and soothing, it helps to keep things self-cleaning in case I've missed anything, and it is a nice feeling to leave your horse's delicate privates soothed this way.

Beside the aloe vera bottle you can see the beans I extracted from one horse today. Apologies for the graphic nature of this blog entry! But: now get out there and clean them sheaths!

And then a nice grooming/fly spray session ending with his new fly sheet being put on - doesn't he look cute? I caught all kinds of grief for putting a pink plaid sheet on a chestnut gelding but I like it.


Rising Rainbow said...

It's not just geldings who need their sheaths cleaned. Stallions who are not breeding mares can need their's cleaned as well. I know, I noticed yesterday my poor boy needs his done.

Flying Lily said...

Stallions too? Well have fun! I like getting it over with mainly. Around here the vets have started offering to do it for $$ and I am too cheap for that.

3pennyjane said...

Oh lord. I think I would pay. This is one of the few horse-related tasks that makes me doubt my commitment. (Also, I think the local vets use a mild muscle relaxant to encourage the boys to let it all hang out, but I could be wrong.)

dp said...

I love sheath cleaning. I'm not sure whether that makes me unusual, but it's like vacuuming or washing windows -- the before/after difference is rewarding.

eatontm said...

This is a very nice blog about a kind of unpleasant task! I've always cleaned my gelding's sheath myself (he is vet-phobic so its just easier on him that way) but the instructions that just say "gently pull the horse's penis out of the sheath" amuse me. I know even as calm as my guy is about it all he isn't that relaxed. I know the first time I had to reach all the way up there I was concerned about going too deep and hurting him and not going far enough and not getting things clean enough. It is nice to read about someone else's "adventures" in this task.

One thing I have found that helps a ton is every time I hose my horse off or wash him I will run water from the hose into his sheath. This helps keep things loosened and flushed out in between the more intense cleanings so he isn't as dirty when the time comes. It also helps keep him accustomed to handling in that area.