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Well, that was disgusting…


There is a very sweet older gelding at my barn. He’s owned by an equally sweet older woman.  He’s her daughter’s first horse and she’ll be keeping him until he dies.  They are fantastic, generous people.  He’s 24 years old and still at a good weight.  The family’s had him for a decade now and they’ve become quite experienced horse people.  He’s kept at a very nice barn, the vet and farrier are out regularily, she rides him lightly and basically takes care of his every need.  Except for one thing:

She doesn’t clean her horse’s sheath. 

It’s not that she’s unaware of it, she just doesn’t believe in doing it.

When she first mentioned this a few months ago I kinda shrugged it off, assuming that the vet was likely doing it when he had his teeth floated.  Yesterday I rode him for her and he went to the washroom in the ring.  He seemed to be struggling a bit, so I decided to check out “the Situation” (think about this visual every time you watch Jersey Shore!).  I grabbed handfuls of smegma.  It was stinky and revolting and there was no way I could leave him like that, so instead I spent a ridiculous amount of time with my hand between a horse’s hind legs (now I need therapy! -see comments of previous post for context).  I actually had to remove the bean in two parts, it was so large!

It just boggles my mind that someone who is, in most respects, an excellent horse owner could be so negligent in this one regard.

So what’s the strangest horse care belief that you’ve encountered?  And any tips for getting that smell off my hands?  I was woefully under-prepared and performed the task sans gloves!

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Posted on October 7, 2011, in horse and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Some geldings just get really gross, my gelding used to be as he has gotten older he doesn’t need cleaning. I removed the bean when he had his teeth done but haven’t done a big cleaning in years. I have read a couple articles recently that say that it actually is not good to clean a gelding unless they really need it. Frequent cleaning can do more harm; that’s probably not the case with the gelding you did though.

    I would soak and scrub in baking soda, that might help with the smell.

    • I’m generally a “just clean it when it gets gross” type, as opposed to saying they all need to be on a strict schedule. But when you know it’s something that’s commonly done, wouldn’t you at least check as opposed to just dismissing it out of hand? He was actually at the point where he was having trouble peeing!

  2. The jumper I owned before I left for college almost never needed his sheath cleaned (think I did it once in the three years I had him). Even when vets would come out and they’d check in case it needed to be done, they were impressed by how clean he was. He was always a very tidy horse, very clean, didn’t like to be dirty. His new owners have also remarked at how easy he is to take care of.

  3. I sympathise about the smell. I’m also waiting to hear what would be good to get rid of it.

  4. If the smell won’t die, you could always cover it up with something. Skunk, maybe?

  5. I never knew about sheath cleaning until I read about it in the Fugly blog. My first reaction was EWWWWWWWWWW! and thinking I don’t want to own a gelding unless I can pay someone to do it for me.

    That said, that is one weird lady! She cares for every aspect of her horse’s health,but doesn’t believe in sheath cleaning? WTF? And why doesn’t the vet do something about this situation?

    I don’t really know of any strange horse care beliefs as I’ve only been around horses for a little over 3 years and all the owners I’ve met seem pretty responsible. I know of people neglecting their horse’s health out of sheer ignorance, but they have learned from their mistakes and things turned out all right in the end for both horse and owner.

  6. Breeding stallions actually have to be cleaned MORE often as it must be clean before it meets a mare’s parts!

    In the wild, thats actually how it gets cleaned — breeding mares.

    • Thanks for the info. I plan to know as much about horse care as possible before I get my own horse. It’s not gonna happen anytime soon, with this fucked up economy, but I’ll be a horse owner one day if it takes me 20 years 😀

      I’d like to get a stallion as my first horse (but I wouldn’t say no to a gelding or a mare either), but I certainly don’t intend on breeding anything unless it has the required conformation and I have the means to do it. But it’s quite common here to let stallions keep their balls intact if they’re stallion material, even if breeding them isn’t on the owner’s priority list. As long as proper care is taken so there are no oopsie babies, I see no problem with it.

      • I’d caution you against a stallion for one major reason: How much experience have you had with sexually frustrated teenage boys? They’re not a pleasant thing to deal with unless they’ve a low hormone drive or have been raised properly with a good amount of opportunities for exercise to work out that testosterone. Now put one of them in a tiny room and only let them do something active for an hour a day with no mental stimulus.

        See where I’m going here? Stallions are raised, usually, in that environment. Breeding stallions at least get that testosterone out when they breed. And often those with performance records and at such facilities are getting worked so often they’ve no time to act up and goof off… but as a first horse, where you’ll be learning the most about horses that you will ever learn in your life, it’s not a good idea. If you did want a stallion I’d wait till you’ve had experience owning a couple horses with different personalities -at least- before hand.

        I’m an advocate that horses are like people to a degree… their personalities are differed to that extreme. So yes, it’s possible to get the ‘nice quiet guy’ of a stallion but even the quiet guy has a need to regularly work out that energy to avoid explosions. Otherwise he’ll use it towards being incredibly innovative (stall door opening), destructive (self maiming or stall maiming) or pushy/aggressive (often dangerously so). Even the nicest guy in the world can become a complete asshole when under stress, which is what being kept in a box with an hour a day exercise time does to them. And when I say exercise, I mean relatively engaging hard work. Not trail riding or a light hack. I’m sure you’ve seen how intense guys can be in sports. Stallions are 1000+ pounds of that and more.

        So don’t think I’m attacking or saying it -can’t- be done. I’ve known some very very sweet stallions… but they were breeding or in intense work. I’ve also known some that were horrible, but they were also kept in little dark boxes, not even yet bred to. And their owners didn’t want to handle them or hired people to do so (who hated working with them) because they had gotten so aggressive.

        These are some things to keep in mind. Talk with folks who have nice gentle stallions (and don’t mistake lazy/quiet for gentle) and find out what their work program is like, breeding or otherwise.

      • Thanks for you concern Sara, but I’ve dealt with a few stallions myself. The school where I ride uses stallions as lesson horses, so I’ve dealt with stallions of a few different types of stallions. If i ever own a stallion I intend to use him for lessons when I’m not working with him so he’ll always have some work to do (and also it will help to pay for boarding) and, of course, make sure he gets plenty of turnout.

        Getting pushy or aggressive is also a matter of discipline, not just boredom. I’m well aware that horses need to have consistent, clear rules and need to be handled every day to make sure they have some manners on the ground as well as under saddle.

        Having said, I know there is still much I need to learn about horse care and I wouldn’t jump into getting the first pretty stallion that catches my eye when I get the chance. Whenever I do get the chance to buy my own horse, I’ll make sure I have someone more knowledgeable with me and make sure he comes from a good line of breeders – and by good line I’m talking about the parents training, conformation and temperament, not how many ribbons they have gotten.

      • Awesome. I’m glad to hear you’ve had experience then. Most people you hear about who want stallions just like the romantic ideal and have no clue about being around them.

        And what you said about discipline is -very- true. Consistency is key in working with any horse, regardless of gender, of course, but it can be a lot more devastating when it’s a stallion versus a gelding. That said I’ve known geldings who are bigger jerk-faces than some stallions I’ve met. Hehe…

        So yes, glad to hear you’re making an educated decision about it. And having him work is lessons is a great way to keep the board down. I did that with my Arab for a time. He loved it too… lotsa little girls to dote on him. Little girls who he was curiously better behaved for than me half the time!

      • Oh yes, I know all about the girls (women?) who dream about having a beautiful bond with their super spesshul unicorn, er, i mean stallion, and end up with a super spoiled and potentially dangerous horse.

        Haha, it’s funny that your Arab loved doing lessons. I have a friend whose stallion looks like a freaking unicorn (honest, the only thing he’s missing is the horn!) and he’s a complete asshole under saddle because he hates being a lesson horse. He’s difficult to get moving on a good day. On a bad, he will walk backwards, crow up and even do some bunny hops to try and get off work. What a pain! Yet I still love him to bits! lol

      • What sort of riding school uses stallions for lesson horses? Not one I’d send my children to!

  7. I meant to reply to Monica, oh well, fail day for me as is.

    As far as the stench, the two things I’ve found that work the best are the Excalibur cleaner itself (scrub your hands and forearms in it) followed by Dr Bronner’s peppermint soap. That stuff also takes other nastiness like desitin, etc off hands.

    Also, there is no glove I’ve found that really takes care of all of it. My geldings never dropped for me, so I always had to follow it in to get the bean and the gunk in the ‘inner sanctum’. I just used a standard surgical glove so I didn’t scratch sensitive man parts with my fingernails (or get smeg under my nails!), and be prepared to scrub. Heck, with the Belgian I was usually almost to my elbow in sheath!

    For the weirdest horsey beliefs I’ve seen, most recently there has been some utter idiocy surrounding dewormers and vaccinations (your horse will not get autism, I promise). I’ve seen people deworm on the moon cycles, and try to used ‘color therapy’ (they’re COLOR BLIND!!!) and crystal with horses. Just nutters.

    • “I’ve seen people deworm on the moon cycles, and try to used ‘color therapy’ (they’re COLOR BLIND!!!) and crystal with horses.”

      LMAO!!! That one just made my day! What the hell are these people smoking? Because I want some of that too LOL

  8. Use shoulder length palp gloves if you really want to use gloves, with a surgical one over your hand as well. I never used gloves. What was really an uncomfortable feeling was my mom’s gelding nodding his head up and down with his lip sticking out as I cleaned him…it just makes you feel icky.

  9. My old Arabian hated having his sheath cleaned. He was a sort of stuffy guy personality wise, pretty much only trusted me and no one else. So I was deeply honored when he let me clean his sheath after several years of not being so.

    He was one of those who actually stayed pretty clean. I think the bedding you have has a lot to do with it. For years he was kept in a pipe stall with a stone-dust dirt flooring. When he had shavings the dusty would get naturally blown away by the air, so his smegma levels were never that high. But when I took him to a barn where he was in a box stall with shavings constantly he got pretty gross pretty fast.

    I would wonder if to remove the smell the same concepts as that for garlic would help? Baking soda someone mentioned, but there’s also this aluminum soap bar you can get (I think we got ours from Garden Supply Co.) that is used for when you handle garlic which almost otherwise never leaves your fingers. Also likely can be found at some specialty kitchen stores.

    It always makes me shake my head at folks in the horse industry for having the biggest mentality of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. I’ve known professional hunter trainers to use the same bridle for years and just coat the damn thing with layers of glycerine because, hey, they still win with it. Or to avoid newer therapies, considering them ‘voodoo’ like material. Magnet therapy for instance. Same with saddles… using old saddles because it worked then, who cares if they can get better fitting saddles now.

    I think that lack of sheath cleaning thing falls in similar lines of old school thought, but likely with a more moral issue tacked on. I’m sure her handling a giant horse’s you-know-what doesn’t sit well with her sensibilities. But if there’s one thing you learn in the horse industry quickly it’s how to get over being squeamish.

  10. I picked up a mare from a lady who thought chiropractic work was as useless as having a psychic come evaluate your horse. She dismissed anything like that even though her horse had classic signs of back pain and her pelvis needed to be adjusted something fierce!

  11. After “Sheath Cleaning Day” at the summer camp barn I worked at, I was so desperate to get rid of the stench that I doused my arms in Absorbine…. It stung a little (read: like HELL!) but it was the only thing that helped with the smell. Good luck! 🙂

  12. Use that orange hand cleaner stuff that mechanics use. I have Orange-Apeel and it works really well.

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