Finding the smegma bean, or, how to make a drugstore clerk quit in seven seconds without really trying
When I saw “smegma bean” in my search results, I thought my Googler had gone wonky. That’s definitely not what I was searching for.
What the heck?
A nickname for Anthony Scaramucci or Stephen Miller or Martin Shkreli? And if so… that’s hysterical! It fits! I mean, if you imagined what a smegma bean looks like… wouldn’t you think of one of those guys?
But I wasn’t searching for “scum-sucking Trump administration sleazebags” or “billionaire jerkwads.” Nope, I was searching “how to clean a horse’s sheath.”
Those unfamiliar with horses may be wondering what on earth a horse would be doing with a sword in the first place, and given that they have no thumbs, how do they even get it into the sheath at all? Those familiar with our equine friends just twist up one corner of their mouths, and think, “Yup — ya just gotta do that sometimes.”
So, for the non-horsey folks, worry not, horses have not taken up arms. The sheath is where a male horse’s, ummm… “member” stays, usually neatly withdrawn into what looks like a handy little pocket between their hind legs. If that member doesn’t get used for what nature intended (besides urinating), it gets cruddy. Unlike dogs or cats, which can easily clean themselves, horses are stuck waiting for a human to assist them.
“How do wild horses keep it clean?” my husband asked, his face twitching in disgust as I was telling him I’d spent part of my morning picking cornflakes off Penn’s peepee — with a straight face, mind you. Because this is serious, people! What’s a poor horse to do? They can’t scratch there or reach it. A good and kind horse owner must take care of that task for him.
I explained that wild horses don’t have this problem because there aren’t any geldings, only stallions, and stallions stay clean by doing what stallions do with mares. A lot. But domesticated geldings have neither the interest nor ability to stay clean this way, and so, the crud builds up on there, and in there.
Now, I had geldings while growing up, and cleaning sheaths was a regular, normal thing. I never thought twice about it. When your gelding drops “it” down, as they do from time to time to relax or air it out, if you see crud on it, you pick it off. No biggie. People who grow up with livestock regularly do all sorts of things that would make city slickers gag. Ask an old-timey sheep rancher some time about how they castrated rams back in the day (and sometimes still do), and sheath cleaning will seem mild by comparison.
Keeping your gelding’s sheath clean is just more ordinary maintenance, like hooves and coats and tails. If you let it go too long, the sheath can get caked with some really hard, chunky gunk. Well, that’s exactly what I discovered one fine day while bathing Penn, and try as I might, even sticking the hose right up inside there, I couldn’t dislodge it.
What to do.
It’s a tender area, and it’s not like you can just use any old soap there, because that might burn, and I was afraid that coconut or olive oil might attract yet more dirt.
And so, I googled.
And up popped “smegma bean.”
How could you not click on that?
Breaking news (for me, anyway): smegma beans are an actual thing! In all my years with horses, I’d never heard of the term, let alone the condition. I watched in mildly horrified awe as the woman in the video demonstrated how to pinch the urethra a certain way to expose the smegma bean — a large, hard deposit of waxy crud — that, left unattended, can continue to accumulate and cause the horse a lot of discomfort and even urinary blockages. This is serious stuff, people.
And then, just like that, she stuck in her thumb and pulled out a plum.
She fished out a walnut-sized chunk from this poor animal’s sheath.
Well. Not my Penn! He’s not going to suffer with any smegma bean! That said, I wasn’t going to attempt a smegma-bean-ectomy after just watching a YouTube video for instruction. It was time to call the vet.
Now listen up, all you UC Davis veterinary students: You must learn how to fish a smegma bean out from behind a horse’s urethra, and if that makes you squeamish, switch your major to engineering or English or something that doesn’t involve animals, because animals can be really gross, and when the animals’ owners can’t deal with the grossness, it’s all on you. And if you think you’ll sidestep that by focusing on small animals rather than livestock, think again. I have two words about that: anal glands. Google it.
Anal glands > smegma beans.
Dr. Sara came to call, and started with a mild sedative, because she said some horses aren’t really down with the whole smegma bean thing. As soon as Penn’s eyelids drooped and his head dropped, and he braced himself like a drunken sailor, Dr. Sara went to work.
Wad after wad of soaked white cotton went up inside and came out black.
But within minutes, it was all done.
“Did he have a bean?” I asked, as any over-concerned helicopter mom would, even when her baby weighs 2,000 pounds.
“No, not one of those trophy-sized ones. Just a couple kidney bean sized ones.”
Well, OK then. Penn’s all clean now, and thank you for that. But how should I keep him clean going forward?
“Lube,” she replied.
For my horse.
And I immediately flashed on the young drugstore clerk’s eyes, brimming with disgust, when I, a nearly 60-year-old woman, hand him a tube of K-Y jelly.
Relax, silly, I’m not going to use it the way you’re thinking.
“It’s for my horse.”
And then, utter revulsion will flash across his face as that visual materializes in his mind, and I’ll have a good chuckle watching him fling his apron aside and flee from the store like his hair’s on fire, heading straight for a monastery.