Your horse's personal hygiene may be a rather delicate issue which some owners would rather skirt around than deal with, but it is important and should not be neglected because you're squeamish about such things. Many professionals argue that the job is unnecessary because the area is self-cleaning and should be left alone, but large accumulations can indicate problems such as tumours or even cancer so it's wise to check it from time to time. Particular attention should be given to the intimate hygiene of animals used for stud purposes to help prevent the spread of disease during covering.
Personally, I think these areas do need particular attention on mares, geldings and stallions as they do tend to pick up bits of debris from bedding as well as dust, spores and even material from arena surfaces and if left dirty irritation and infection can set in. I have even seen cases of maggot infestation in a gelding's filthy sheath during the hot, warm summer months. And there is nothing more unpleasant when grooming your horse's tummy than finding large lumps of smelly, sticky, waxy detritus stuck to his fur! How often you clean your horse's nether regions really depends upon the individual horse: for some, annually is fine; for others every few months is best.
What you will need
It goes without saying that you should always wear gloves. The thin, disposable surgical ones are the best as they aren't as thick and cumbersome as the ordinary household kind. You'll also need several buckets of clean, warm water; two small towels or flannels and four different coloured sponges. Make a note of which coloured sponge you are going to use for which area; eyes, nostrils, dock area and intimates. That way, you won't forget which sponge was for which bit when you come to repeat the exercise at a later date.
If you have a gelding or a stallion, you may need some KY jelly and in all cases an unperfumed, equine-specific body wash.
Always keep your cleaning kit exclusive; i.e. never use the same sponge or towel on another horse as you may spread infection.
NB: Always wear a hard hat and stout, preferably steel toe-capped boots. Even the most placid horse can take exception to this part of his grooming routine, especially if it's carried out infrequently.
Proceed carefully, calmly and slowly keeping a close eye on his body language just in case he kicks and never stand directly behind your horse. It's a good idea to begin by gently sponging the inside of the legs first, just to gauge his or her reaction before venturing further and remember to talk reassuringly to your horse while you work.
It's a good idea to pick a quiet time of day on the yard for this job too. After exercise or when the horse has been out overnight or all day and is calm and sleepy is a good time.
Mares can be messy in this department especially during their season so it's important to keep the area clean and fresh. You may also find that you need to wash her tail fairly frequently while she's in season too as this can become sticky and unpleasant.
First of all, tie your mare up with a small haynet to keep her occupied. Damp your chosen coloured sponge and add the equine body wash and allow your horse to smell the sponge before you start. Never use ordinary shampoo or disinfectant to wash intimate areas as this can easily irritate sensitive skin.
Begin by washing your mare's udder area and teats. Be gentle and don't be tempted to pick at any stubborn bits of grime; soak the sponge and wash the area over again until any dirt loosens and comes away. When you're happy that the area is clean, take the second sponge, dip it into the second bucket of clean water and wipe over again to remove any remaining body wash. Finally, use a clean soft towel or flannel and gently dry.
Repeat this process with her vulva, remembering to use clean sponges, fresh buckets of warm water and a clean towel. Only use the body wash product externally and work around the area only, never inside.
Now move onto the area beneath your mare's tail and her dock not forgetting to use clean sponges, water and towels as before.
Geldings and stallions
Essentially, the method for cleaning boys is the same as outlined above for girls; use clean sponges, clean water and clean towels for each area.
Proceed with caution as geldings can be very reluctant about having their delicate bits touched. Once you are confident your horse is settled and has accepted your ministrations, take your dampened sponge with a small amount of product and gently wipe around the inside of the sheath to loosen any dried debris. These secretions usually come away fairly easily once you've repeated the process a couple of times. You can then use your fingers to gently loosen any particularly stubborn bits.
Finally, use a clean, damp sponge to wipe away any remaining product and towel-dry the outside of the area carefully.
If your horse will not tolerate having his sheath cleaned as above, try wiping a small amount of KY jelly around the inside of the sheath. This will help to loosen any accumulations of debris which will then drop out with the help of gravity and will require no further intervention from you.
Now finish off by cleaning under your horse's tail and his dock area as described above.
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