The main law that deals with horse riding premises is the Riding Establishments Act 1964 & 1970. The law prevents the keeping of a riding establishment except under the authority of a licence issued by the Local Authority. The term 'riding establishment' means "the carrying on of a business of keeping horses to let them out on hire for riding, or for use in providing instruction in riding for payment, or both". The "Horse" is defined as "any mare, gelding, pony, foal, colt, filly, or stallion and also any ass, mule or jennet (female donkey)"
A brief summary of the licensing conditions
Horses must be maintained in good health and suitable for the purpose for which they are used within the riding establishment.
Adequate accommodation to be provided for forage, bedding, stable equipment and saddlery.
Reasonable precautions to be taken to prevent and control the spread of infectious or contagious diseases amongst the horses. Veterinary first aid equipment and medicines shall be provided and maintained at the premises.
Appropriate steps to be in place in the case of fire. The name address and telephone number of the licence holder or some other responsible person must be displayed on the outside of the premises, along with instructions to be carried out in the case of fire.
Anyone under the age of 16 must not be left to supervise the management of the establishment. Clients who are under the age of 16 years of age must be supervised when riding, unless the manger is satisfied that the hirer is competent to ride without supervision.
The riding establishment licensing conditions are provided in the 'Downloads' section at the right-hand side of this web page.
Your questions answered
Am I eligible for a riding establishment licence?
Applicants must be over 18 years of age. In England and Wales they must have not been disqualified:
from keeping a riding establishment;
from keeping a pet shop under the Pet Animals Act 1951;
from having custody of animals under the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954;
from keeping boarding establishments for animals under the Animal Boarding Establishments Act 1963;
under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 from keeping or owning animals, being able to influence how animals are kept, dealing animals or transporting or being involved in the transporting of animals.
How much does a riding establishment licence cost?
There is an application fee which must be paid at the time an application is made. The cost of the licence is £104.
Where a licence is granted, that licence and any subsequent licence will expire on 31 December of the year to which the licence relates and must be renewed annually before that date if the premises are to continue as a riding establishment.
How will you decide if I can have a licence or not?
Before deciding we must consider a report from a veterinary surgeon or practitioner detailing whether the premises are suitable for a riding establishment and detailing the conditions of the premises and any horses.
What is a provisional licence?
The 1970 Act allows us to give the applicant a provisional licence where considerable improvements to the premises are required before a full licence can be awarded. The provisional licence can specify conditions and the licensing authority will normally only grant a full licence when these conditions have been satisfied. The granting of a provisional licence is, in the first instance, for a period of three months
Will I need to obtain planning permission?
A new applicant must ensure that Planning Permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 has been granted:
a) to use the premises as a riding establishment;
b) to erect new stables or other buildings on the site; and
c) to obtain permission for change of use of all, or part of the premises to be used as a riding establishment.
Will I need any qualifications to run a riding establishment?
The applicant must be suitable as to their experience in the management and care of horses and have the ability to supervise the establishment. Practical experience can be demonstrated by the provision of references to support your application. The British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) offer a selection of recognised qualifications.
Do I need a licence if I provide lessons to individuals on their own horses?
This activity is not included in the Riding Establishments Acts 1964 & 1970, and therefore currently it does not need to be licensed.
What other laws will I have to consider?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The act applies to all persons at work, employers, self-employed and employees. The legislation protects not only people at work but also the health and safety of other people not in your employment.
How do I apply for a riding establishment licence?
You can now apply for a riding establishment licence online.
Please follow the link on the right-hand side of the webpage to Business Link's UK Welcomes website where you will be asked to register with the site.
What happens after I have applied for a riding establishment licence?
We have a target date for dealing with these applications which is 28 days after receipt of the application form and the appropriate fee. If you have not heard from us within 14 days, please contact us.
You will be able to act as though your application is granted if, by the end of the 28 day period, you have not heard from us that your application has been refused.
What if I have been refused a licence or do not agree with the licence conditions imposed?
Any person aggrieved by a refusal to be granted a licence or by any conditions to which a licence is subject may appeal to the Magistrates Courts who may give such directions regarding the licence or its conditions as it thinks proper.
What happens if I do not comply with the licensing conditions?
If you do not have a licence or do not comply with any of the conditions, you may be prosecuted, fined up to £5000 and/or imprisoned for up to 3 months, or both.
How do I complain about animal welfare at a riding establishment?
If you wish to complain about the welfare of the animals, nuisance caused by the operation of the riding establishment etc. or are one licence holder wishing to complain about another use contact us.