Stefanie Guillaume makes her mark as a professional sheath cleaner.
By Wendy Angel
“I go all the way up in there. I’m past my wrist for sure.”
Stefanie Guillaume isn’t shy. In fact, she’s entertainingly blunt. But when you’re a professional horse sheath cleaner, you kind of have to be. “I laugh about it and make jokes. Yeah, I’m a wiener cleaner. I joke around, but at the end of the day, I feel like I really help them.”
The desire to help horses and their owners is what got Stefanie started in this field. After owning and managing a lesson barn for many years, she went back to school to be an equine massage therapist. During class, she overheard the instructor talking to a student about a really large bean found in a gelding, and she learned that not all vets offer sheath cleaning as a service. As she had ample experience in cleaning her own geldings — including one who needs to be cleaned about once a month — Stefanie thought this could be a great opportunity not just as a business, but also to help horses.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’m helping them. You should see the stuff I pull out of these guys. I know they’re so much more comfortable and they’re going to perform better.”
Thus was born Stud Crud Busters, an offshoot of her massage therapy practice in Port Orange, Fla. She finds that some people don’t want to clean their horses’ sheaths, some don’t know how, and some don’t even know that it’s necessary.
I’m really changing these guys’ lives. These beans can be stuck up in there for who knows how long.
The Florida heat and humidity can be particularly harsh on geldings’ sensitive parts. “With some of the horses in Florida, it’s sticky, it’s gooey, it’s stinky and causing a lot of problems.”
Problems related to dirty sheaths can include general discomfort, itchiness, poor performance, and difficulty urinating. She has removed beans — the name for the accumulation of debris and smegma in the tip of the penis in a skin pouch — that are sized upwards of a half-dollar coin. She recalls removing a very large bean from a gelding and the ensuing relief.
“He walked 15 feet in front of us and dropped and was like ‘Oh wow, this thing is like brand new again, and I can pee.’” The horse then put his head on his owner’s shoulder thankfully. “I’m really changing these guys’ lives. These beans can be stuck up in there for who knows how long. And it’s really important to get them out.”
After three years in operation, Stefanie has traveled all around Florida to clean the sheaths of more than 1,200 horses — all without sedation. She works slowly, relaxing them with massage and then works her way to the sensitive area, asking “permission” with her hands. “Usually, by that time, the horse is like ‘Wow, she’s rubbing my butt. This is fantastic.’ They drop their hip and let me go in there and clean it.”
Then comes the “fun” part: Removing the flaky, crusty, and gooey gunk, plus removing the bean. On the Stud Crud Busters Facebook page, she has a photo album of all her trophies so people can see what could be lurking inside their own horse’s parts.
Her job isn’t always pleasant, even gross stuff and smelliness aside (Hint: Coffee grounds removes the smell from your hands). She’s been kicked, peed on, and threatened with bites. But most animals accept her presence, from donkeys and miniature horses on up. “I did a miniature mule, and he was just beside himself. He was like SHE’S TOUCHING ME THERE. SHE’S TOUCHING ME THERE. Wiggling all around. And then in the same day I did an 18.2 Belgian. So I was down on my knees and then up in the air.”
Besides the obvious health benefit to the horses, they also get rewarded with a cookie at the end. “Sometimes horses don’t even want to take it from me. They’re like, ‘Her hand smells funny! Lady, I know where your hand just was!’
Explaining her job to non-horse people can be entertaining and awkward at times. Especially when she had to meet her boyfriend’s parents for the first time, and she told him not to say what she does for a living. “Eventually she found out, and she was like, you clean it? You have to clean it?! And guys look at me funny. Like young guys will walk by and see me with my hand up in there and be like, ‘What the heck is wrong with that girl?’”
But Stefanie takes it all in stride and keeps her sense of humor throughout everything, right down to her rubber gloves. “Sometimes I’ll do fun colors. Sometimes purple, blue or pink — because how funny is that? Sheath cleaner showing up with a pink glove. I gotta be classy.”