By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A mum-of-two dubbed the ‘Sheath Queen’ could have the worst job in the world – cleaning male horse’s genitalia.
Mercedes Hoblin, from Essex, earns up to £400 a week extracting ‘beans’ – a dried waxy substance including dirt and dead skin cells – from geldings’ private parts.
The former carer quit her job after realising she was the only person with a strong enough stomach to take on the task at her local stables, where she keeps two horses of her own.
Now, the mum insists her bizarre line of work has surprising benefits – as she’s been able to become self-employed and even saves on childcare as her eldest daughter Evee-Mae, eight, loves to visit the horses with her.
Mercedes said: “I was a community carer for the elderly for three years but I was passionate about horses.
“I have two of my own, and I knew I was good at caring for them.
“As a horse owner, you know there’s always going to be unpleasant bits to do to keep your horse healthy, but I have a strong stomach, and I know that I’m good at what I do.
“I’d been going to the same stables for four years with friends and my friends were reluctant to clean that area of their horses.
“Friends would ask me to help with theirs, and soon I realised I was the only one who would do it.
“It was a niche in the market, and if I was paid to do it, I would be able to spend more time with my horses.
“To extract the beans, I first put on a cleaning gel, leave it for two or three minutes and then use hot water and a sponge.
“Sometimes to push these beans out, I have to put my finger on the end of the penis, sometimes putting it all the way in and put pressure on them.
“I was lucky, I have a knack of doing it, and now, it’s my profession.”
Mercedes, who has owned horses Romeo and Pumpkin for a year but has had horses for most of her life, said she’s well aware of the jokes that often come with her profession but has learned to take them all in her stride.
The beans, as Mercedes titles them, are a build-up of smegma which often has to be expelled in solid lumps as the animals cannot remove them themselves – with some even ending up in a jar in a museum of oddities.
Mercedes doesn’t use anaesthetic or sedation on the horse, but instead works with them.
She first makes them comfortable by feeding them treats, and begins the process by touching the area gently, finding out what the horse likes and dislikes.
Mercedes said: “It doesn’t smell nice, it’s the worst part of the job.
“It’s like a sweaty, sticky smell – it’s the worst kind of dirt, with maggots sometimes living up there.
“But there’s only two horses that I haven’t been able to do – some will kick and won’t like it, but I just need to get a horse used to me.
“If a horse doesn’t like something, I go back to the last step where the horse was comfortable and work up again.
“If they still really don’t like it, I sometimes ask the owner to hold one of their legs up as it makes it difficult for a horse to kick out on only three legs.
“I believe it’s a necessary job – we’ve domesticated these animals and put them in stables so it’s something they can’t do for themselves.
“I’ve seen horse getting behaviour alterations, or having trouble going to the toilet, in obvious discomfort.”
Mercedes believes all horse owners should make sure their horses have their ‘beans’ removed.
She charges £25 per horse, and £20 if there are four horses in the same stable yard.
To date, the mum has found some beans bigger than four inches in length, and takes images of her best discoveries next to coins for reference.
She said: “This is as important as getting your horse’s teeth cleaned – but don’t attempt to do it yourself.
“My husband Jamie is a tattoo artist, and he initially said what goes on at the stable stays at the stable.
“But now he’s just as interested as me, to see what size beans I get, and if they beat the ones before.
“It is a running joke with him and his friends now.”