What is a Sheath and How Do You Clean It?
The sheath is a skin or mucosal layer that surrounds the penis. It can be found on both male and female horses (mares), but typically it is more pronounced in male horses because of its size and behavior.
In the male horse, the sheath plays an important role in the reproduction process and urination. The sheath houses the stallion’s penis, and when the stallion is in the mounting position, it is withdrawn out of the sheath for penetration into the mare. Then, once the stallion has ejaculated, his penis is withdrawn back into the sheath for safety and to help prevent injury.
Balancing in a mounting position is difficult enough to perform (without a penis that is), so it is important to ensure that the stallion’s sheath is clean and dry before every breeding session. In addition to keeping the penis and sheath clean during breeding, it is also recommended that the sheath be also kept dry and clean year round.
Keeping the sheath clean helps ensure there is no dirt, sand, or stall dust present before breeding. Your horse’s penis and sheath should remain clean at all times for breeding, urination and overall health.
How Often Should You Clean a Sheath?
In the wild, male horses are able to self-clean and do not require assistance from humans. This is the reason why a lot of horse owners and trainers view cleaning a horse’s sheath as an unnecessary task. Well-kept horses, in general, do not usually have dirty sheaths.
If your horse has a dirty sheath, then there is a possibility that your horse is not self-cleaning.
Although it is not common, a horse without the capability to self-clean may have issues with his sheath.
If your sheath is dirty, if the contents look like pus, or if the sheath isn’t what you thought it should be, then you’d do good to have your veterinarian take a look at it.
Clean the Sheath when Needed
If you do feel that your horse needs cleaning and care, you can take a look at your horse’s sheath yourself. But if your horse has not been trained to have his sheath touched, you may be better off allowing your vet to clean it for you.
Cleaning the Sheath Every Month
If your horse is not experiencing any pain and the sheath is clean and healthy, you will have to clean the sheath only when it’s necessary.
What You Will Need to Clean a Sheath
Before you clean your horse’s sheath, you should first strip the sheath off his penis if he is not currently wearing it. You can do this using your gloved hands. Take a paper towel, and moisten it with hot water. Then, clean the shovel and the sheath.
It’s also the perfect time to take a look at the inside of the sheath. If you notice any irritations or bumps, use a non-abrasive washcloth to rub it gently. You will need some of the Neosporin cream for it. Unclasp the sheath, and spread some of the cream within the opening. Use a moistened towel to rub it gently. Use your clean towel to dry the area.
Lastly, put the sheath back on his penis, and cover it with the shovel.
How to Clean a Sheath
Cleaning the sheath is an important part of grooming a horse and it helps to keep the sheath ventilated and free of infections. Rest assured, you will not hurt your horse by taking the time to clean his sheath. The best time to perform this task is when your horse is mildly sedated.
Get a Rubber Gloves
You will need rubber gloves to protect your hands from the strong odor. Underneath the sheath and in the hair around the opening of the sheath will grow a mix of bacteria and yeast.
Locate the Opening of the Sheath and Gently Massage Warm Water
Using a warm, damp sponge or rag, gently clean the area around the sheath. Pay close attention to the opening and any hair growing around it.
Rinse with Soap and Water
Once you have an open area around the opening, it’s time to clean it out. Use a mild soap and warm water to clean the inside of the sheath. Use caution not to put soap inside the sheath.
Rinse with Clean Water
Using clean, warm water, rinse any soap residue out of the sheath.
Pull the Sheath
Once the sheath is clean, you will need to clean inside the sheath. Pull the sheath out as far as you can and clean the inside with soap and water.
Tips for Cleaning a Sheath
There are many reasons a horse can have an infection of the sheath. This is an infection of the canal or tube that your horse’s penis travels through during normal urination. It can be caused by genetics, foreign objects like twigs and small stones, injury, poor hygiene, and contact with other horse’s infected sheaths.
Whichever the cause, these infections can cause serious problems for your horse, so it’s important to check there is no infection and to do some basic hygiene to prevent an infection from occurring.
A healthy sheath should be clean and supple. It shouldn’t give when you press against it. A soft sheath is slightly puffy and will feel slick to touch, but firm. This is typical of a horse that has proper cleanliness and appropriate sheath care.
If you have a nervous horse, who doesn’t like a wash, you can try soaking the sheath before you do a full wash. This can help the horse feel more relaxed and therefore, most likely to cooperate.
Whatever the reason for the poor hygiene or infection, you should always do a thorough inspection of the area every time you groom your horse. If you notice any lumps, bumps, swelling, or discoloration, you should call your veterinarian immediately, because these can be symptoms of a serious problem.
Keeping Your Horse Healthy
Like humans, horses are susceptible to yeast and bacterial growth. Skin infections, caused by fungi and bacteria, often appear on the sheath which can be very painful and irritating for the horse. Yeast infections, adhered to the scrotum around the sheath, cause a chaffed irritated area.
Male horses develop a hardened area around their scrotum, called the sheath. It lengthens and hardens during puberty, making it a convenient place for breeding. Not only does the horse’s sperm live in the sheath, it also contains a special gland called the preputial gland. This gland creates a waxy substance that covers the head of the penis for protection.
The sheath needs to be checked regularly for any damage, sores, swelling, redness, or cuts. This area is susceptible to bacterial growth and should be cleaned regularly to prevent any infection, and to maximize the horse’s comfort. The sheath should be cleaned regularly to prevent any injury to the genitals.