Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Greys: It's A Dirty Job, But....

If you're squeamish or don't own a grey gelding, then you may be excused from reading on...

This isn't a particularly delightful subject, but an important one if you own a grey gelding, and as I just had to tackle the issue I thought I'd write about it, but I'll spare you any gory pictures, instead here's a nice one of a lovely grey horse. Apart from the obvious problems of keeping grey horses clean (particularly if like mine, yours likes to roll around in the mud), there are a number of other issues with greys, particularly geldings.

Grey horses are particularly prone to melanomas as they get older. These are prominent around the anus and underneath the dock of the tail but have also been known to appear around the head, and whilst unsightly and a little uncomfortable in the vast majority of cases they do not seriously affect the longevity of a horse's working life.

If you own a grey gelding you should pay particular attention to the horse's sheath as they get older, as melanomas can grow here unnoticed for quite some time. When numerous clusters of small melanomas form here, it becomes more difficult for the horses own cleansing mechanisms to to effectively remove the build up of gunk (that's a technical term for the waxy residue that naturally builds up over time!).

If numerous melanomas are present then this waxy residue builds up and hardens, making it more uncomfortable for the horse and difficult to naturally remove. This leaves you with dirty job to do - intervene and remove the gunk!

For this you'll need some warm water (no man likes cold water anywhere near this region), with just a dash of detergent, and a latex glove. Another trick I learnt from removing the children's earwax is use a little olive oil, this helps break up the waxy residue.  

So now you just need to get your hand in there and carefully start removing the gunk! I found rubbing the horse's belly button helps to 'relax' the horse, much to the amusement of my vet! And you should do this every 3-6 months.

Now just to explain why this is important. Because this waxy residue can't escape it hardens over time and causes discomfort to the point where the horse will frequently lift his hind leg, and can also find it difficult to move forward nicely under saddle. As importantly this harden wax can cause the melanomas to become sore, start weeping, and set off an infection, as it rubs the inside of the sheath with the horse's movement.

It's a dirty job, but you have to do it! So if you have a grey gelding make sure you check the inside of his sheath regularly, I've just removed lumps of gunk the size of half a walnut, believe me the horse will thank you and move much nicer under saddle.

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