Gelding horses with swollen sheaths

horse in stall image by BONNIE C. MARQUETTE from

Responsible gelding owners must face the task of regular, thorough sheath cleaning, no matter how unsavory. While breeding stallions usually receive proper sheath care during breeding season, geldings are often overlooked and, therefore, more susceptible to swelling and infection.

Understanding the Sheath

The male horse sheath, or prepuce, secretes a natural lubricant called smegma. Individual horses produces varying quantities of smegma, but regardless of the amount, this thick, dried, foul-smelling fluid must be regularly removed in order to maintain a healthy sheath. When left to collect within the sheath, smegma gets trapped in the urethral groove and forms "beans," which can be infectious, cause swelling or create a life-threatening situation.

Cleaning the Sheath

Using a mild soap diluted in warm -- not hot -- water. Avoid any iodine or Betadine-based cleansers, as they can severely irritate the penis and sheath. With soapy, gloved hands, gently clean off any smegma accumulated within the sheath folds, moving to the pouch at the end of the sheath and penis head to remove any beans that may have formed. Continue washing the sheath and entire penis with plain warm water, removing all soapy residues.

Healthy Hints

When it comes to sheath cleaning, do not overdo it by sticking to a twice-annually schedule. Seek professional assistance to ensure proper diagnosis any time there is an indication of infection, including fever or discharge accompanying a swollen sheath.