If a horse does not have his sheath cleaned regularly, he may develop what is known as a “bean”.  This is located in the dorsal urethral sinus in the head of the penis, and is composed of secreted body oil, cellular debris, and environmental particles.  This “bean” can get as large as a walnut and obstruct urine flow, which can cause your horse discomfort and potential harm.  Regularly scheduled cleaning can prevent this discomfort.

The interval of sheath cleaning is variable based on individual need; some horses produce oils more than others.  It can also be nutritionally and environmentally based in cases such as a sandy environment or in dirty conditions.  Overt problems may require cleaning on a very regular basis, while others may require only once a year cleaning.

This procedure typically involves an intravenous injection of Acepromazine.  This will “drop” the penis from the sheath to allow proper inspection and cleaning.  A dirty sheath can cause sheath swelling, difficult urination, and tail rubbing.  There can be cancer processes as well, seen on the penis or sheath.  This should always be evaluated.

Some horses really resent having their sheath cleaned.  Not only will they kick, they’ll do so fast and hard.  If you are unfamiliar with this procedure, it is best to have your veterinarian assist you.  One option that can save you time is to ask your veterinarian to clean your horse’s sheath during another routine procedure that involves sedation, such as dentistry.