Two horses and their riders were rescued by the Coastguard after getting stuck in mud on a Wirral beach.
The “extremely complicated rescue” began on Saturday afternoon after reports that the horses had become trapped around 300m from the shore on Moreton beach, near Leasowe Golf Club.
Rescue teams from Merseyside Fire and Rescue and Hoylake Hovercraft crew were dispatched to the scene at around 10.30am.
Both riders were helped to safety, while one of the horses managed to extricate itself from the mud.
The remaining animal was stuck up to its belly in the mud, and firefighters and coastguard members had to dig through to free its legs.
Teams attempted to use mud lances to soften the sand with water, but the mud was too thick.
The horse was placed on inflatable sleds and towed across the beach using a 4×4 vehicle.
Once the animal had recovered from the four-hour rescue, it was taken to a hose box and checked over.
Both horses are expected to make a full recovery. The two young riders were checked over by the North West Ambulance Service and reunited with their parents.
After the operation, Ian Farrall, a hovercraft crew member said: “Considering the ordeal the horse had been through, its behaviour was exceptional in what was clearly a distressing situation.
“The emergency service teams worked really well together, pooling their resources and experience to ensure a good outcome in very difficult circumstances.”
He added: “Walking and horse riding is a safe activity most of the time but it is important to be aware of the risks.
“The sand and mud around the Wirral coast can be dangerous and coastal conditions can change over time.”