Sheath cleaning is one of those horse maintenance projects that we tend to put on the back burner for as long as we can. However, it is a very important part of horse care and essential to good horse hygiene. You can make the procedure simple, safe and natural by incorporating essential oils into the process.
Using essential oils for horses in your day-to-day care and maintenance saves both time and money. Something we are all concerned about these days! By keeping just a few of the most versatile of the essential oils on hand you can replace the vast majority of those “specialty” products that clutter up your home and barn.
When cleaning my geldings’ sheaths, I will typically use some kind of a natural cleanser like a mild tea tree oil based cleaner or something like Thieves Household Cleaner. But if you don’t have that, you can use just the essential oils.
The standard recommendation for sheath cleaning is typically 2 to 3 times per year, but some horses accumulate debris more often than others and I would recommend you at least check them every 2 to 3 months and gauge your cleaning schedule based on the individual horse. For some reason it seems like the lighter colored horses create more smegma and need to be cleaned much more often than their darker counterparts.
If you suspect you horse some underlying issues such as an infection, make sure to consult your veterinarian before proceeding with any treatments. By using essential oils in our sheath cleaning process, it is gentle enough to be done daily and can be complimentary to any treatments proscribed by your veterinarian.
What you will need:
- Thieves essential oil or Thieves Household Cleaner
- Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) essential oil
- Lavender essential oil
- If you are using Thieves essential oil rather than the household cleanser, you’ll also need either KY jelly or a mild natural cleanser to add the Thieves oil to
- Pure grade vegetable oil (V6)
- Bucket with about a 1/2 gallon of warm water
- Latex gloves
Always, ALWAYS, make sure you have done the prior and proper preparation with your horse for sheath handling! If your horse is not used to this process, it’s a really good way for you to get kicked and/or seriously injured! If your horse is bothered by it, do a lot of approach and retreat to the area for several days prior until you can work your hand into the sheath and touch all around the groin area without your horse reacting to it.
For cleaning the inside of the horse’s sheath, if you use the Thieves essential oil rather than the Thieves Household Cleaner, add the Thieves oil to the KY jelly or any mild natural cleanser you have handy. If you use the Thieves cleanser, add 1/2 cap or less to the 1/2 gallon of warm water. Make sure that you remove any beans you find that may be blocking the urethra and smegma that has built up on the inside of the sheath.
If you are unsure how to check for beans, it is a simple process and you will know right away if your horse has them or not. Apply a liberal amount of lubricant/cleaner to the tip of your gloved pinky finger and run your finger around the outside of the urethra. If your horse has beans, you will feel some hard nodules around the urethra. Use your fingertip to dislodge them and pull them out. You may need to reapply lubricant several times to loosen them.
Beans can cause your horse serious urinary problems if not removed on a regular basis. If you have trouble doing this, your veterinarian can provide this service for you. Once you’re done with that, rinse with water thoroughly to make sure you get all the cleanser removed.
Next you can add 5-10 drops of both Melaleuca (alternifolia) and lavender essential oils with just enough pure grade vegetable oil (V6) to clean the outside of the horse’s penis. You won’t need very much, a little goes a long way.
If your horse has an underlying issue, you may need to repeat this process once or twice daily until you notice improvment, then you can reduce the frequency to about once every month or two thereafter. Both the Thieves and Melaleuca oils are have properties that make them extremely beneficial for cleansing and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal.
The Melaleuca is also thought to have regenerative properties, and is very beneficial for the skin. Lavender has been used for its cleansing and soothing properties and has a rich history of uses for the skin. It is also one of the gentlest of the essential oils, so is perfect for sensitive areas of the body.
Complement to other treatments:
The really nice thing about essential oils is that they can be used to complement any treatments your veterinarian might prescribe. I always try and keep the 4 major oils on hand because they have so many uses – Thieves, Peppermint, Lavender and Melaleuca.
It is also very important to always make sure that you are using pure therapeutic grade oils to ensure the quality and consistency of the product you use on your family and animals. If you don’t already have the above-mentioned oils, you can get them by clicking Essenty Websites.
Are you looking for natural answers to common horse care issues? Your question may end up the subject of my next natural horse care article. Join the conversation! Post your questions on the Heavenly Gaits fan page here: http://www.facebook.com/HeavenlyGaitsEquineMassage.
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the “whole horse”.
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