IT could have been a scene from a Hollywood western - two lawmen on horseback pursuing outlaws.

But the chase, which literally saw sparks flying from the horses' hooves, took place not on the American plains, but on the streets of Teesside.

And the horsepower at the thieves' disposal was in the engine of a car.

However, galloping police horses Huntcliffe and Cleveland proved more than a match for the Ford Orion, which had been taken without the owner's consent.

After a 20-minute gallop through the streets of Middlesbrough, police constables Chris Bancroft and Mark Humble got their men, one of whom, exhausted after continuing his flight on foot, jumped a wall and tried to hide in a pile of mud.

The two police riders had been returning to normal duties after a firearms alert when they spotted three people travelling in the Orion.

PC Bancroft said: "You get a feeling for things and this just didn't look right. The car turned into Clifton Street, we went to stop it and the driver made off. He accelerated down Linthorpe Road and we galloped after it."

An earlier road accident had blocked the bottom of Linthorpe Road forcing the car to turn into Victoria Road.

The two mounted officers urged their mounts on and saw their suspects abandon the vehicle at the junction with Wilton Street and run off. Each officer picked a man to follow.

PC Bancroft said: "We identified our targets as the driver and front seat passenger, as all three ran across Middleton Park towards the University."

The chase led past the university entrance to Ulla Street and into Granville Road, where the trio split up.

PC Humble said: "We had covered a hell of a distance. We had managed to give directions to other units who were by then heading towards our location.

"Our adrenaline was up and I'm sure the horses sense it."

In Granville Road, one man went to the right and the other to the left, but shortly afterwards, the two targets, by now exhausted, were in police custody.

"They were totally shocked that it was horses that had chased their car and then for such a distance. They couldn't believe it," said PC Bancroft.

Police said the Orion had been taken without consent and the owners had not even been aware of its disappearance.

One of the suspects was released on police bail and the other is due to face magistrates charged with taking a vehicle without consent. The third man was not caught.