PSA from your geldings (and studs)!
Winter is upon us, and for many horse owners, that means we stop bathing and cleaning all the ‘nooks and crannies’ of our 4 legged fellas. However, winter is a prime time for your guys not to fully ‘drop’ while urinating which can lead to a build-up of dried urine, skin cells, sweat and bacteria. This accumulation of build-up can quickly lead to swelling, discomfort and potential bacterial or fungal infections. At the tip of the urethra, hard deposits may form under the folds of the skin that are commonly referred to as a ‘bean’. These beans can grow to be quite large and hard and can cause geldings to have trouble urinating, or can cause the act to become very painful. In some cases, the accumulation of smegma can predispose a gelding to developing a cancerous skin tumor called squamous cell carcinoma.
While we do everything to keep our horses comfortable and happy in the winter, it escapes many owners to do a thorough, routine cleaning of their horse’s sheaths. Every horse is different, and some may only need a routine cleaning 2 to 3 times a year. However, for those horses that don’t fully extend to urinate, they need to be examined every few weeks, and if need be, gently flushed with warm water or rinsed with a product specific sheath cleaner. If a cleaning product is used, it is extremely important that it is completely washed out to avoid irritation and complications.
If your gelding is less than cooperative with having his nether regions examined, or you yourself don’t feel comfortable performing his maintenance, almost all equine vets will offer sheath cleaning as a routine and inexpensive service. For particularly unhappy geldings, a sedative may be required from your vet to relax the muscles so that a thorough cleaning can be performed.
So while sheath cleaning is up there with the less than glamorous barn chores, it is essential to the health and happiness of our geldings and stallions. However, let’s not forget about the ladies, as mares can also accumulate similar grime between teats and around the vulva. Just like geldings, this can develop into a nasty and uncomfortable infection such as equine vaginitis. Similarly, the same safety precautions pertain to the mares, so please use caution- especially if it’s a chestnut mare you’re dealing with!
So next time there is a slow, particularly quiet and unpopulated day at the barn, stoop down for a quick examination to see if your gelding is in need of having his sheath cleaned!