Sensible Sheath Cleaning

Male horses require routine sheath cleaning to prevent pain, discomfort, or even infection.
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Sensible Sheath Cleaning
While some geldings manage their whole lives without having their sheath cleaned, most experience buildup of irritating secretions and dirt that can cause problems. | Photo: Erica Larson

Male horses require routine sheath cleaning to prevent pain, discomfort, or even infection.

Things aren’t always what they seem. Years ago, before Tia Nelson, DVM, of Helena, Montana, went to veterinary school, she worked as a farrier and helped a local veterinarian with lameness cases. “One day he took me along to look at a horse that was lame in his hind limbs,” she recalls.

This gelding had been a futurity horse in training, but he had recently been “off” and couldn’t seem to get his hindquarters under himself. Nelson and the veterinarian watched the horse travel and noted he was picking up his stifles exaggeratedly. “The veterinarian grinned at me and asked if I knew what was wrong,” she says. “I didn’t.”

After sedation the horse dropped his penis, and it was covered with grime. “The sheath was filthy and the diverticuli in the head of the penis were full of beans,” Nelson says. “This horse was absolutely miserable. We cleaned his sheath, and two days later he was doing fine with no lameness at all. Now I keep this possibility in mind when examining horses that are lame in the hind end.” While this dirty sheath case is extreme, it highlights what can happen if you neglect a horse’s male parts

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Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at https://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.

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