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First Posted: Nov 16, 2011
Nov 21, 2011

Sheath Cleaning, Urination and Your Horse

by Debora Johnson
Video of Sheath Cleaning


Typical urination stance of a gelding: my horse, A Patchy.
I taught him to urinate on command.


"A female feral horse is exhibiting elimination by urination. Urination behavior in horses is sexually dimorphic: female horses urinate in a posterior direction and male horses urinate in an anterior direction." Quantifying Equid Behavior--A Research Ethogram for Free-Roaming Feral Horses

A gelding or stallion may urinate in several different postures. I am told that they can urinate while walking, standing up sitting down. However, I have only seen a horse urinate one way: The usual position that one sees a male horse urinate is in a parked out position--hind legs stretched out as well as front legs, hips bent forward-- while standing. You often hear that when a horse is urinating while you are on his back that you should stand up in the stirrups until the horse is finished urinating. I always do this because I was trained that it does take your weight off of the horse's kidneys. However, I am not sure that this is true. There could actually be several other reasons to stand up in the stirrups that make better sense to me. The "typical" urination stance puts stress on a horse's back as the back dips inward or downward. It makes the horse, while stretched out in this position, more comfortable when you are off his back. It also allows the horse to get more underneath himself when he is finished urinating to move on. The horse cannot comfortably go forward or backward while in this "parked out" stance. Standing up in the stirrups also puts you in a more balanced position--centered. One more thought. When a horse is urinating the horse is more vulnerable to predators which causes psychological concern for the horse. Being centered and ready in case the horse feels threatened and takes flight--you are safer, as well.

Symptoms of Urination Problems

  • Not dropping while urinating: dirt, grime (smegma - A collection of dirt and excretions, builds up inside the sheath and must be removed for the sake of the horse's health), urethral diverticulum (bean - A firm lump of smegma that has collected and hardened inside the horse's penis), allergic reaction (inflammation), squamous cell carcinoma or habronemiasis.
  • Taking the stance to urinate and nothing comes out
  • A urine stream flow that is not fluid, but on and off
  • Blood in urine
  • Discolored urine (not clear, light yellow or yellowish in color)
  • Swelling in the prepuce

If you find that your horse is having problems urinating or you visually notice any of the above problems, call your vet immediately. Blood work, chemistry profiles, urine testing and parasite load can be tested to help your vet determine what the offending issues might be so that treatment can begin.

It is our practice to have the vets clean the sheaths of our two geldings while the teeth floating is taking place. The horses are given tranquilizers at that time anyway so it can all be done at the same visit. The sheath cleanings take place at least once a year--sometimes twice--depending upon the buildup of dirt, etc. in the sheath or on the penis.

For More Information:

Urinary Tract Problems
Urinary Infections in Horses
Horse Urine With Reddish Spots In Snow

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