Corro Stories

Corro Courses: Equine Sheath & Udder Cleaning

By Caitlin Gooch

 

Equine sheath cleaning and urogenital cleaning is key to preventing pain, discomfort, or even infection for your horse. Here's what you need to know (with pictures) about cleaning sheaths for geldings and stallions, as well as udder cleaning for mares. 

Mares get beans. Yes, you read this correctly. I was shocked the first time I saw a video on Facebook of a bean removal from a mare. Then my friend, Amaris Saint-Lot, made her own video checking her mare for beans. Before we dive into the mare genital area, which could be a factor in a bad attitude, let's discuss general sheath and udder cleaning. Disclaimer: If you do not feel comfortable with this procedure or if your horse is uncomfortable, do not hesitate to call your equine veterinarian. Safety first!

Geldings and stallions have sheaths. The sheath is the protective covering of the penis. Over time it accumulates a buildup of debris. This debris, or smegma, is made up of sebum, dirt, dead skill cells, moisture, and normal bacteria. Sebum is a secretion produced from the sebaceous glands which line the sheath. You may see large flakes or a grey gooey substance when looking at your horse’s sheath. In extreme cases, you definitely want this to be cleaned. It could become infected or cause your horse to be uncomfortable. 

Over time the sheath accumulates a buildup of debris, or smegma. When this happens, you may see large flakes or a grey gooey substance as seen in this picture. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

In this example, the horse is experiencing large flakes on his penis as a result of debris buildup. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

How often should you clean a horse's sheath?

We had one horse with an extreme case. Perhaps cleaning his sheath regularly would have prevented this from happening. It is suggested to clean every 6 months or once a year. However, there are arguments on whether or not sheath cleanings on a regular basis are needed. Cleaning frequently can strip away the good bacteria and cause infections. My equine veterinarian did suggest we clean the extreme case, but I did not consult a veterinarian when I cleaned my stallion’s sheath. 

Here is the process of how I cleaned his sheath:

1) Discuss with a veterinarian to sedate your horse. This will allow them to relax and fully drop. It will also keep you or the person doing the cleaning safe, as this can be quite uncomfortable. My stallion was not sedated when I did this. He was calm and relaxed, so I proceeded without using a sedative.

2) Make sure you have the proper supplies:

         - Gloves for your hands (I did not wear any and I should have)

         -  A clean cloth

         - Liquid nonirritating soap (I used Farnam Excalibur Sheath and Udder Cleaner)

         -  Bucket of clean warm water

Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

3) Add a liquid nonirritating soap to the water or lather on the cloth. Gently use the cloth and your hand to loosen the debris. Rinse and repeat as needed. It does not need to be squeaky clean or spotless. Just remove the necessary build up. When doing this, the aim is to keep the good bacteria while getting rid of the gunk.

Add a liquid nonirritating soap like Farnam Excalibur to the water or lather on the cloth. Gently use the cloth and your hand to loosen the debris. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

4) Carefully look for a bean in the diverticulum located at the end of the penis. Because this is near the urethra and beans can be large, you want to be careful.

Check for a bean in the diverticulum (shown here), which is located at the end of the horse's penis. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

5) Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a clean damp cloth.

This is what a clean sheath looks like. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

How to clean mare udders and genital area

It's important to clean mares' genital area and look for beans.

Cleaning a mare's udders and genital area is not as complex as the male horses. This does not have to be done often. Again, we want to keep the good bacteria. Be sure to check for dirt build up in the folds, as that can lead to beans and can cause irritation. 

How to clean a mare's udders and genital area

1) Have someone hold the lead rope for you

2) Make sure you have the proper supplies:

         - Gloves for your hands 

         -  A clean cloth

         - Liquid nonirritating soap (I used Farnam Excalibur Sheath and Udder Cleaner)

         -  Bucket of clean warm water

3) Add liquid nonirritating soap to the water or lather on the cloth. Gently use the cloth and your hand to loosen the debris. Rinse and repeat as needed. It does not need to be squeaky clean or spotless. Just remove the necessary build up. When doing this, the aim is to keep the good bacteria while getting rid of the gunk.

Make sure you clean within the folds. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

4) Carefully look for beans. To proper remove, evert the lower part of the labia and remove if you see any beans. Not all mares have beans so be gentle and patient.

Not all mares have beans so be gentle and patient. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

5) Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a clean damp cloth.

After shot of cleaning a mare's udders and genital area. Image courtesy of Caitlin Gooch.

The pictures included in this article are pictures I took myself and with my own horses. The only horse we sedated for the cleaning was the gelding with an extreme case. I did not need to sedate my other horses because they were relaxed. My horses are comfortable with me doing this, so I want to stress this is why there was no need to sedate. It was also safe to do so. They did not kick out or make a fuss about it. However, this may not always be the case because every horse is different. Please take the necessary precautions.

For those still wondering if any of this is absolutely necessary, I asked Dr. Rachel Cezar-Martinez for her answer. She said, “No, it’s not necessary unless they are picking at it.”

About Caitlin Gooch

Caitlin is the founder of Saddle Up And Read and co-host of the podcast Young Black Equestrians. She has 3 daughters, 7 horses, 3 dogs, 1 rabbit, and is enjoying her life with husband JaQuan. Caitlin was introduced to horses at an early age. Her father owns a horse farm in Wendell, NC which sparked her passion for horses. For 23 years she has ridden Western, as well as bareback. Caitlin has a goal to open her own facility to give youth a safe space to create and be themselves.