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Through the Looking-Glass

a bug's-eye view of the equine gut and what it can tell us

about feeding horses

Dr Christine King

(book in process; scheduled for completion in 2024)

Close-up of a horse grazing

The following pages contain the text of a book I began writing several years ago. What started out as an article for a scientific journal quickly morphed into a book as I realised how much information there is in this field of research, which is expanding daily.

The book is still a work-in-progress, but publishing part of it here might be the "boot up the bum" I need to get it finished... Stay tuned!


Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There  is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In it, Lewis Carroll up-ends ordinary reality by having Alice crawl through a mirror (‘looking-glass’) to see what it's like in the world of the mirror's reflection.

Looking at things that way led to all sorts of strange confusions and downright absurdities. But with this story, Lewis Carroll challenges us to see things differently, particularly in a way that is opposite to our habitual way of seeing and thinking about things. When applied thoughtfully, looking at things from the opposite direction can lead to new perspectives on familiar things, and it may suggest some paths to understanding that we might not otherwise have seen.

In this same spirit, let’s take a look at the microbial community, or microbiota, of the horse's gastrointestinal system (the equine gut) from as near a microbial perspective as we can imagine. These miniscule residents number in the quadrillions (for some perspective, one quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000), so although they're invisible to the naked eye, they have vastly more to do with how the equine gut functions — in health and disease — than you might imagine.

As this book is written for horsepeople who are not scientists, scientists who are not horsepeople, and veterinarians who may be both, some parts of it will no doubt be too basic for you — but hopefully it all comes together and tells a story we can all put to good use.


Chapter 1 — "What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?" "I don't know," said Alice. "I lost count."

Chapter 2 — "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."   "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.

Chapter 3 — “Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be, Come dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and Me!"