Two horses and their riders have been rescued after becoming stuck in thick mud while riding on a beach on the Wirral coast.
Both young riders were helped to safety by coastguards and one of the horses was quickly freed from the mud.
But the second horse had got stuck up to its belly in very thick mud, around 300 metres from shore, on Moreton Beach near Leasowe Golf Club, Merseyside.
An RNLI hovercraft from Hoylake was launched at 10.26am on Saturday to help out as the Flint and Wirral Coastguard Rescue Team, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Merseyside Police and RNLI lifeguards assessed the scene.
SHOUT: Hoylake @RNLI hovercraft crew assisted in the multi-agency rescue of two horses and their riders after they became stuck in thick mud on the Wirral coast today ➡️ https://t.co/CV4uVGyhrypic.twitter.com/DLpawhLcMi
— RNLI Hoylake Lifeboat Station (@HoylakeRNLI) April 13, 2019
The young horse riders had been assisted to safety and were under the care of the North West Ambulance Service and their parents.
Coastguards and fire fighters then began digging together to free the horse's legs.
The RNLI crew and Coastguard also used their mud lances in an attempt to soften the sand with water and compressed air, but the mud proved too thick for the equipment.
After some further digging, and with gentle encouragement from the emergency services, the horse managed to free itself but became stuck again.
Mud boards and mats were then deployed to provide the horse with some firmer footing until the animal was freed again and managed to climb onto the boards with some assistance.
A vet then administered a sedative to avoid any further distress to the animal and to help the emergency services to move it to shore safely, guiding it along mud boards before eventually reaching firmer ground.
Once ashore, the horse was led into a horse box to receive further assistance and treatment after its four-hour ordeal.
Volunteer hovercraft crew member Ian Farrall 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.
"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.
"We would advise horse riders and walkers to check local safety notices and to always carry a means of calling for help.
"If you get into difficulty on the coast, or see someone else in difficulty, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard."