Sheaths, to boldly go where none has gone before... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 03:58 PM Thread Starter
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Sheaths, to boldly go where none has gone before...

Back story: I had noticed Rusty's sheath looked a little swollen lately, so when a vet came for something else, I asked him to have a look. He agreed, and offered to clean Rusty's sheath, which of course, I gladly accepted. I had cleaned it in May or so, while he was still a little groggy from the sedative for his teeth. But it is persistently... cruddy. I don't believe Rusty was being cleaned until I bought him. Anyway, the vet said he found a lot of crud (which we could also see), and some pretty hard beans. He recommended I clean it again in a few days, to make sure that any material he had shaken loose but not removed would come out. So I cleaned it again today. Feels much cleaner, but now I have two questions that only my trusty HF friends can answer:

1 - how often should I do this? Harley was always quite clean so I didn't really worry about cleaning him - though the vet did him about once a year. Rusty is cooperative and I'll do it as often as I have to, but I also don't want to aggravate it unnecessarily.

2 - is there anything I can apply to prevent the crud from building up? I know that some geldings are worse than others for this, but I wonder if there's anyway to make it less... hard and gritty? And more comfortable for him? Like a lubricant. But I also don't want to add something that will attract more dirt in there.
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post #2 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 04:31 PM
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I think it just varies from horse to horse but about once a year or every six months is pretty typical. Nav can get by with about once a year. I've heard that over cleaning can cause gunk to build up more quickly, but I don't know how true that is. I think, since he's cooperative, if he drops while you're grooming or after a ride it wouldn't hurt to wipe him off a bit and do a quick check for beans every once in a while (maybe once a month or so). That way you could assess the situation and see if he's close to needing a full cleaning or if he's ok to wait.

As for your second question, I don't know of anything like that. :( I'd be hesitant to leave something on unless it was specially designed for such a sensitive area, just because of the chance of irritation or possibly attracting dirt and building up into more gunk.
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post #3 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 04:46 PM
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I only clean when needed and as needed, not as a preventative treatment...Just doing the physical check exam to see if he needs to me is invasive and can be irritating.

Does Rusty drop down so you can just do a visual check or must you do a hands-on investigation?

My vet has told me to not "pick" clean but if it is loose remove it, otherwise leave it alone...some debris is expected but gross amounts of gunk need to go.
If you pick off and pull you just made him sore...not good.

On my geldings when their inside upper leg gets icky marks...time for a gloved meeting to take place.
I use as mild as possible a cleaner, often using the commercial preparation sheath cleaners as they are ph balanced and not abrasive.
Otherwise a very gentle soap, some warm water to clean and large amounts of clean, clear water for rinsing.
Remember you must rinse thoroughly and carefully all residue or you can create sensitivity and sores and a unwilling accomplice next time.
Once you are finished there is nothing left except wet skin so no "attractant" should be around that can create a homing environment to get stuck on or in.
And no, if you are asking do I use something like Vaseline the answer is no.

I have used KY Jelly in the past when doing the exam part as slick is easier on them but a pest for me..and a light use of mineral oil to rid of built up smegma that is evidenced on their upper thigh....
Be careful though as you don't want to upset the beneficial bacteria of that area or you will be looking at some nasty vet bills trying to fix a serious complication made.
Don't forget the exam gloves or wear "the scent" as cologne for a while no scrubbing seems to make quite go away from under the nail-bed.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #4 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks @Navigator 's mom and @horselovinguy . I particularly appreciate your very detailed explanation hlg :)

So he never gets anything inside his legs. It doesn't look or feel sticky. But his sheath looks bigger than Harley's, and feels more.... plump? As opposed to Harley's limp skin folds. I always just figured this was individual variation and age, but then I noticed a bit of dried blood around the sheath on Rusty when I do a quick spot check (fingers around - oh yes, gloved!!! lol, that smell is pungent! - but not up into the sheath very far). Bug bites? Something else? Anyway, that's why I cleaned him last spring when the vet was here and while he was still drowsy. I didn't know how he would react. He does drop sometimes, but not when I want to clean him. When he drops, there is a fair bit of dry, peeling skin, but I generally leave that alone, because as you say hlg, I think exposing that tender skin and tearing it off would only hurt more. Oh, and he pees normally. Has never appeared to be uncomfortable or have an abnormal stream. Oh the things we observe as horse moms...

I will maybe have a look once a month or so and try to monitor any lumps or discomfort on the outside to see if anything feels different.
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post #5 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 05:12 PM
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This may not be because he is in need of a cleaning.
I don't mean to give you cause for worry...
Rusty have at all a crest to his neck?
Crest to the neck, plump from food and a spongy appearing, swollen sheath can be precursors to IR tendencies my vet told my friend and I when we took her horse for his yearlies...
Vet took one look and said we got a problem in the making...

It might not be connected, it might be if that horse is not dirty and a adverse reaction to the filth buildup...
Keep your eyes open...and watch the grass he now eats unlimited yes?
You know the rest to start digging for information about...

My apologies, please swallow your heart back to its rightful position in your chest.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #6 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 05:19 PM
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Only mares here, but I couldn’t resist sharing the sheath cleaning song for you Acadian!
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post #7 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
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post #8 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 06:31 PM
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Well there went my afternoon coffee...I needed a laugh. Thanks for that!

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #9 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 06:42 PM
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1. I can speak to the truth of HLG’s comment on dirty sheaths and IR.

Both Duke and Joker stayed pretty clean — UNTIL they developed metabolic issues.

2. However my Rusty is the dirtiest of them all but he has serious environmental and grain/soy sensitivities.

He has not had grain or soy for many years but I can’t do anything about the environment without moving and “that ain’t happenin’ “. as a friend used to say:)

3. I clean as needed and with my two that can be once a month during hot/humid months but they can go all then the cold months and not need cleaned.

3.1. Because I have to clean to frequently, I don’t make a habit of going elbow deep and I especially do not use anything more than plain water or sometimes Vetericyn.

3.2. My horses have been getting showered every night (not shampooed) to cool them down and knock the sweat off.

When I’m done washing faces, I take the wash cloth and clean the butt, the inner thighs, and take a quick couple of swipes up inside to get those “dark crumbles” out.

3.2.1. I’ve discovered that cleaning the opening with some Vetericyn on a paper towel every morning, before turn out, really helps keep odor down which, in turn, deters the flies.

During this heat, they will drop by themselves when they’re standing in front of the fans. I try to keep a wet paper towel handy to quickly check their urethras for any beans. Rusty is a lot better about that than Joker is, so he is a lot more “bean-less” than Joker is.

I hate the whole process and I am really happy by barn and barnyard are not visible from the road:):)

3.2.2. Turnout — that’s the other thing - my horses come in every night and sleep on shavings. They are a little more prone to gunky buildup than a horse who is out 24/7.

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #10 of 22 Old 07-31-2020, 08:24 PM Thread Starter
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Good to know @walkinthewalk ! Thansk for the great info! Not sure what I have - it's just called Sheath cleaner. Will have a look at it tomorrow. Sounds like at the very least, a monthly cleaning may be warranted, but possibly just with water and Vetricyn. Will keep an eye open for IR issues too....
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