After finishing the taught section to my masters course in June I completed a dissertation over the summer which was handed in at the end of November. My dissertation was looking into the effects wormers may have on the bacteria that live in the hindgut of the horse. These microbes are important as they carry out some of the digestion of the food the horses eat, helping the horse to get more nutrients. You can read more about this in my digestive system post. My first dissertation which I carried out in my final year of my undergraduate degree was also looking at changes in the hindgut bacteria of horses but this was looking at the effects of probiotics, click here to read about it. This has given me quite a good understanding of this area of the horse.
What I did
At the start of the study faecal egg counts were carried out for a number of horses, the results of this led to the two groups that were in my study. If the horses had a high enough burden of worms to be treated they were in the "treated" group and if they were not treated they were in the "control" group.
I then took poo samples on three separate occasions and analysed the DNA of the microbes present in these in the lab. This showed me which species of bacteria were present under the different conditions and how they may have changed.
What I found
I found there was a difference in the bacteria living in the hindgut of the horse between the two groups of horses. However, that difference seemed to be there from the beginning of the study which suggested to me that the presence of worms in the digestive tract of the horse may have causes these differences. I concluded that more research is still needed as my sample size was only small (it contained 12 horses) but the results were interesting and a good starting point for further research.