How to Clean a Horse’s Sheath

Last Updated on August 11, 2022

Every gelding owner dreads when it’s time to clean their horse’s sheath. Though unpleasant as it may be, cleaning your gelding’s sheath can be beneficial to his health. This article will take you through the steps of how to clean a horse’s sheath. 

What is a Sheath and How Do You Clean It?

The sheath is the part of the stallion or gelding that provides protection and support of their penis. It is an enfolded skin pocket that is located on the underside of the belly, in front of the hind legs. While the horse’s penis is retracted, the sheath is bunched up.

While bunched up, the sheath can accumulate natural oils, sweat, dirt and shed skin. The combination of these things can create a foul-smelling, sticky residue known as smegma. The accumulation of smegma not only smells bad but can lead to health problems.


In some cases, dried of smegma can form small clay-like balls on the tip of the horse’s penis. These balls are referred to as beans. In certain cases, beans can obstruct the flow of urine for the horse, which can be painful.

How Often Should You Clean a Sheath?

Every horse is unique and requires a different amount of times they need their sheath cleaned. For some horses, they may need it cleaned every few months, some only once a year and some may never need it cleaned. The best way to find out how often your horse needs his sheath cleaned is to consult with your veterinarian.

After some recent studies, some people believe that a horse’s sheath does not need to be cleaned. In some cases, excessive cleaning of the sheath may do more harm than good. Whereas in some instances a horse may have accumulated too much smegma and may benefit from a regular sheath cleaning.

What You Will Need to Clean a Sheath

To clean a sheath, you will need:

  •  Dish or medical gloves
  •  Mild soap (though some people opt to use no soap)
  •  A large oral syringe or turkey baster
  • Sponges or cotton roll
  • Warm Water
  • Two buckets

How Often Should You Clean a Sheath?

When going to clean a horse’s sheath, approach with caution. Some horses do not like their sheath being touched and may kick out. If you notice that your horse seems uncomfortable with you touching their sheath, do not clean it yourself.

Veterinarians may have to sedate your horse or give it a relaxant to clean his sheath. This will make it safe to clean the sheath without worrying that you or your horse will get hurt. Only veterinarians should provide your horse with sedation or relaxation.

How to Clean a Sheath

Though it is not a pleasant task, sheath cleaning can be a very important part of maintaining a gelding or stallion’s health. Cleaning a sheath gets rid of excess smegma that may cause discomfort and in some cases infection in horses. Cleaning a horse’s sheath is not always an easy task and may require a veterinarian.

When going to clean your horse’s sheath, the first thing you need to assess is if your horse is comfortable with you touching his sheath. Some horses may tense up and even kick out when their sheath area is touched. If your horse does not seem comfortable, wait to clean the sheath until a veterinarian can, as they can provide sedation or medication to help your horse relax.

Also, if your horse is comfortable with you cleaning their sheath, the first step is for you to dip a sponge or cotton into warm water and begin the wet the sheath area. If your horse is relaxed, you may use the turkey baster or syringe to wet the sheath.

At this point, your horse will likely relax, and his penis will drop. If your horse seems comfortable, you may take a small amount of mild soap to wash the oily smegma. Gently use your hands to clean any dirt and dead skin on the sheath, some pieces may be harder to get off than others.

If your horse has a bean, gently use a finger with soap to and work it into the pocket above the urethra opening. If your attempts to retract his penis do not try to fight him, as it may cause damage to his muscles.

Once all smegma and beans have been removed, use a bucket of clean warm water to remove any soap. You may use the sponge/cotton or syringe/ baster to remove excess soap. Make sure to keep the clean water bucket separate from the water bucket used for cleaning off the soap.

Tips for Cleaning a Sheath

Since the sheath is a sensitive area, you want to work gently and slowly, otherwise, your horse may retract his penis. Some horses may be fully extended the entire time, where some may only partially extend or not extend at all.

Make sure to use warm water while cleaning their sheath. Cold water can cause a horse to withdrawal its penis. If the water is hot, it will be uncomfortable for the horse.

Make sure to only use mild soap for cleaning a horse’s sheath. Dish soap can be used as it is mild and works well on grease. Only use a small amount of soap when cleaning a sheath, as too much may cause irritation. 

Tips for Cleaning a Sheath

If you notice your horse has a sensitivity to soap, stop using it. You may still clean his sheath just using warm water and either cotton or a sponge. You may also buy sheath wash made specifically for horses.

If your horse is uncomfortable with you cleaning his sheath, you can often book a veterinarian appointment for the same time as they get their teeth floated. That way your horse will already be sedated and you don’t have to make another appointment.

Keeping Your Horse Healthy

Sheath cleaning is an important aspect of the health of your gelding or stallion. Though it is not necessary for every male horse, many of them do benefit from regular sheath cleaning. Excess build-up of smegma may cause irritation, discomfort and even infection in horses.

Sheath cleaning can also help detect more serious problems such as squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma. It is best to consult with your veterinarian about how often your horse needs his sheath cleaned.

Please comment if you have any questions about sheath cleaning or have any remarks regarding this article!


Is sheath cleaning necessary?

Horse’s sheath cleaning is a very controversial topic among equestrians. Horse owners and veterinarians have different opinions about whether or not it is necessary to clean the horse sheath, as well as how often to do so.
Horse owners feel the need to clean their horse’s sheath because they may notice a foul odour coming from it due to dirt and bacteria accumulation. However, horse sheaths are meant to be a protective organ for the reproductive tract of male horses. As such, the inside should only consist of secretions from the prostate which neutralizes any harmful bacteria. Horse sheaths are also leathery in texture to protect the penis, but may have little cracks that can harbour dangerous pathogens. If dirt accumulates in these cracks it could cause serious infection and inflammation. Because of that sheath cleaning is important as it maintains your horse’s reproductive health, prevents dangerous infections, and makes breeding success more likely.

How do you know when your horse needs a sheath cleaned?

There are three signs that you should watch out for. Horse sheath cleaning is necessary if your horse experiences any of the following symptoms:
•Swelling in the area, or a red or pinkish colour to the sheath.
•A foul odour coming from this area. The smell may range from a light barnyard smell to a severe odour.
•Semen leakage from the sheath, either through urination or ejaculation.
These conditions all indicate that your horse is suffering from an infection and needs immediate medical attention as well as proper hygiene. Horse owners should always consult with their veterinarian before attempting sheath cleaning on their own to make sure they are doing it correctly.

How much does a sheath cleaning cost?

Depending on where you take your horse, the sheath cleaning cost could vary. Horse owners may choose to do this at home or bring their horse to an equestrian centre or veterinarian clinic for proper care and hygiene. Horse clinics will often provide this service as part of a larger package that includes vaccinations, dental work, etc. According to, a sheath cleaning service at a veterinarian clinic starts from $50-$70. Horse owners should check with their veterinarian for more information on Horse Sheath Cleaning Costs in their area.

What are possible complications with sheath cleaning?

Horse sheath cleaning has the potential to aggravate and exacerbate the infection by causing further damage to the tissue, which can cause abscesses and pus accumulation in the sheath that can cause swelling, pain, and bleeding. Horse owners should be careful not to cause a tear or cut in the sheath as this can expose the urethra. This causes a risk of infection and bacterial/fungal contamination of the urinary tract, which may lead to an obstruction. Horse sheaths should not be aggressively rubbed as this can cause pain or damage.
Horse owners should always consult with their veterinarian before attempting to clean their horse’s sheath to avoid any possible complications.