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Sheath noises

From: Linda

Dear Jessica, I doubt if you will want to print this question but I would really like to know the answer. What is the cause of that sort of honking noise that geldings and some stallions make with their sheath? This is being discussed on another list and somebody said it depends on the size of the horse's "equipment" because if it is little and the sheath is bigger there is an airspace and that makes the noise. This kind of makes sense, only I own two geldings and a young stallion, and they all make the noise sometimes but not other times. The geldings mostly do it in the show ring where it is the most embarassing. The stallion is too young to ride so I haven't paid much attention to what is his pattern of "noise" and "quiet". So what exactly DOES cause the noise, and why does the same horse make the noise at some times but not at others, when he's doing the same thing, usually trotting? Thank you and I hope you answer this. If you don't want to answer on the list would you answer me on e-mail? Linda (confused about all that honking)

Hi Linda! It's a perfectly good question, and there are probably quite a few people who will be interested in the answer. The person who said "airspace" was right, but whether or not you hear noise from a particular gelding or stallion is generally not just a function of the size of the animal's sheath. The amount of air will vary according to the degree of retraction -- and according to the amount of tension in the horse's stifle, belly and flank area. Riders who pay close attention to their horses will notice that a horse can be silent at some times and noisy at others; riders who, like you, are extremely observant, will notice that the noise occurs more frequently at certain times and in certain places. Your geldings make this noise in the show ring -- and that is probably where they are the most tense.

When you are riding, and your previously relaxed horse becomes tense, at a lesson, in a clinic, at a show, or just in your own arena, you'll notice that you go from "silent running" to "honking." It's not cause for embarrassment, but it IS a very good audio cue to make you aware of your horse's tension! It's also a good way for you to monitor your horse's return to a relaxed state; if you hear "honking," it can be helpful to notice what your horse is doing at the time, and then do something else until he is relaxed, then see whether you can ask him to do the same thing again and remain relaxed this time.


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