A task which should be regularly performed upon geldings (twice a year or more), but which many horse owners refer to their veterinarian to do, or simply ignore until the situation becomes critical, is cleaning of the prepuce (the sheath of the penis).  Many geldings have not been taught to allow handling of the sheath and penis and therefore resist it.  Too many people get kicked doing this necessary procedure.  So the cleaning is ignored, or postponed too long, or the handler gets kicked or otherwise injured.

Therefore I will describe the method I used upon many thousands of my gelding patients without ever experiencing an injury:

I will admit that the method I describe does not allow me to visually examine the penis, but since this is about a sanitary and prophylactic (preventive medical) treatment, visual examination is not necessarily a part of the procedure.

First of all, I stand at the horse’s shoulder, what I call the “safety position”. Because I am right handed I am at the left shoulder, but either side will do.  I like to have a competent handler standing on the same side as me, holding the haltered horse, and very close to me.

My left arm is over the horse’s back, as close to the withers as possible.  With my other hand I gently stroke the saddle area, gradually moving down towards the sheath.  If the horse resists, I may pick up the foreleg with my free hand while my other hand continues stroking until the horse relaxes and allows me to manipulate the opening of the sheath.

Once this level of cooperation is obtained I introduce a garden hose into the sheath just enough to wet the inside.  I don’t do this if the water is too cold.  So I taught my clients to do sheath cleanings during warm spring days, or warm fall days.

Then I tighten the opening of the sheath around the hose (no nozzle, not too much water pressure).  I want the sheath to balloon up with water, wetting the entire inside of it.

Next I put the hose aside and pour some Dial Dishwashing Soap on my hand.  I tried this product 60 years ago, it worked, so I used it ever since, caused no irritation or problems.  But, I’m sure many other cleansers would work as well.  The object is to cleanse and lubricate.

Then I insert my hand into the sheath, cleansing and lubricating the entire sheath and the penis.

I gently insert my forefinger into the diverticulum (the pocket at the tip of the penis, which often accumulates a “bean”).  The “bean” is allowed to get too large, can cause serious problems.

I work any “bean” out of the diverticulum.  The water and the “soap” help to soften and lubricate and break up any “bean”.

After I am satisfied that the entire sheath and its contents are clean, I remove my hand, pick up the hose, wash my hand and introduce the hose back into the sheath.

Now, again, I pinch the opening of the sheath so that it balloons with water and then release it so the soapy water and any debris flow out.

I repeat this 10 to 15 times, making sure that all traces of debris or my cleansing solution are washed away and that only clean water is left in the sheath.

One again, I repeat! Having done sheath cleaning many thousands of times the way I described, without a single injury to me or to the gelding, I do not hesitate to describe it to the horse owner.

But, one other thing: Because the penis is not exteriorized, and we can’t see it, we may miss seeing a medical problem, such as a tumor.

Today, many veterinarians will tranquilize the horse before sheath cleaning which automatically drops the penis into view and facilitates the cleaning procedure.

However, I believe that cleaning the sheath can and should – most of the time – be a grooming procedure.  What I have described can be done by most horse owners, if they wish to do it themselves.


This procedure is also described and illustrated in my video Safer Horsemanship (Video Velocity)