Red Around Horses Sheath – Causes And Treatments Explained

Last Updated on June 1, 2022

If you’ve got a gelding, sore and red around horses sheath can be a worrying sign. Let’s take a look at what red around horses sheath might mean, and find out everything you need to know about keeping your male horses’ sheath in good condition!

What Is The Sheath On A Horse?

The sheath of the horse is the soft skin that surrounds the penis when it is retracted. This keeps the penis safe from dirt, flies, and potential injury. The sheath has two parts – the outer section, which we can see, and the inner lining that is only visible when the penis is not fully retracted.

Only male horses – geldings, colts, and stallions – have a sheath. The inner section of the sheath contains a complex balance of bacteria, which produces a dark sticky substance called smegma. This is completely normal, and it is not necessary to routinely clean this from your horses’ sheath.

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Routine Care Of Male Horses Sheath – Red Around Horses Sheath

Many horse owners see a lot of smegma when their horse’s sheath is visible, such as when the penis is extended during urination. But is this anything to worry about, or should we leave well alone?

Although smegma looks quite unsightly, it is actually very natural and does not cause any harm to the horse. In fact, if we attempted to keep the sheath of the horse spotlessly clean, we would upset the delicate bacterial balance and potentially cause more problems!

Antiseptic or antibacterial washes will remove all bacteria from the sheath, giving the opportunity for bacteria that are normally not present to colonize the sheath. These can cause red around horses sheath, as a result of infection and irritation. They may also cause the penis to become sore and inflamed, which is very painful for the horse.

So, generally speaking, it is best to leave your horse’s sheath well alone. However, some horses produce an excessive amount of structure, and in these situations some of it can be cleaned by using one of two methods.

The first technique involves applying a small amount of light mineral oil, such as baby oil, to the sheath. This will loosen hard lumps of smegma, allowing them to fall out naturally.

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If this does not work, the sheath can be lightly wiped with a cloth and warm water. Do not use any soap or other cleaning products – you are simply aiming to remove some of the excess smegma, without stripping away the essential bacteria. Do not attempt to get it spotlessly clean, as you will cause more problems than you resolve!

Obviously male horses can be very sensitive about their genitals, and they may not allow you to touch them at all. You may find that your horse relaxes his penis at certain times, such as when he is being groomed. This may give you the ideal opportunity to carry out a gentle clean of his sheath.

Read more about What Does Gelding a Horse Mean?

Red Around Horses Sheath – What Does It Mean?

If you are worried about red around horses sheath, firstly you need to decide if it is normal or not. The penis of a horse is a pinky-red color, and this may be all you are seeing. However, if the outer lining of the sheath looks red and sore, you may need to investigate further.

Firstly, you need to encourage your horse to relax his penis to enable you to take a closer look. Many geldings relax their sheath when they are being groomed, so this might be enough to allow you to see if the skin looks sore or inflamed. If you can get close enough to smell, an unpleasant odor can also be a sign of a sheath infection.

If you suspect that your horse has a sheath infection, it is vital to seek veterinary advice. Your veterinarian will be able to give a sedative that allows a full examination of the sheath and penis to be carried out. They can also advise you on the best way to treat a sheath infection in horses.

Red Around Horses Sheath - What Does It Mean

Summary – Red Around Horses Sheath

So, as we have learned, red around horses sheath can indicate that they have skin irritation or infection of the sheath and penis. This may require veterinary treatment, as this area is very difficult to apply medications to. Routine cleaning of a horses sheath is not normally necessary, but excess smegma can be gently wiped away with a cloth and warm water.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on red around horses sheath and other sheath problems in male horses! Do you have a gelding that often has problems with his sheath? Or maybe you’d like to know more about how to clean your horses sheath? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


What Causes Sheath Swelling In Horses?

Sheath swelling often occurs during the winter months, when horses are confined to a stable for longer periods than normal. This is because fluid accumulates in the sheath whilst the horse is stood still. The swelling should normally dissipate when the horse is turned out or exercised.

How Do You Tell If Your Horse Needs His Sheath Cleaned?

Most horses do not routinely need their sheath cleaning. Cleaning the sheath can upset the delicate bacterial balance, leading to unpleasant infections that are difficult to treat. If your horse has a lot of smegma build up on his sheath, some of this can be wiped away with a soft sponge and warm water.

How Do You Treat A Horse Sheath Infection?

Horses are very sensitive about their genital areas, and treating a sheath infection is not easy! Your veterinarian will normally prescribe systemic antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. If the sheath itself needs topical treatment, the horse will normally need to be sedated for this to take place.

How Is Lymphangitis Treated In Horses?

Lymphangitis is characterised by a build up of fluid in the legs of a horse. This sometimes oozes from the skin, and can be very uncomfortable for the horse. Your veterinarian will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication as well as antibiotics, and walking exercise to reduce the swelling.