Donkeys have returned to a popular British beach after a 25-year absence.
Former primary school teacher and riding instructor Marie Bates embarked on a career change this year and has brought donkeys back to Seaton Carew.
Her husband would lead the donkeys and ponies on the beach as a child and the pair decided to revive the tradition.
“I have lots of really fond memories of the seaside from when I was young,” she told H&H.
“I just decided I wanted a bit of a change — I wanted to find a way to combine my love of being with animals and working with children.”
Marie has a licence to give donkey rides on the shore and has been trading for a month.
“It was more difficult than you might think [to find suitable donkeys for sale],” she said.
“Because we wanted to get up and running, we wanted some sensible donkeys who were young enough and had a good temperament.”
She bought four from John Nuttall in Lincolnshire and her children have been riding them at home.
Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool in County Durham, has a long sandy beach — perfect for rides.
Marie added the donkeys — named Sox, Bilbo, Hobo and Bandit — are all characters at home and know their job on the beach.
“My dad says they have been ‘programmed’ to be around children,” she laughed.
“When they have their tack on they are so sensible and so laid back.”
She added Sox in particular likes attention when visitors come to have their photographs taken with the donkeys.
Marie adheres to strict rules and weight limits to ensure the welfare of the equines.
The donkeys will be on the beach from 10am, at weekends and every day during the school summer holidays until October.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday