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Horse riding establishments

If you let out horses for hire or provide riding school services you will require a licence issued by the Local Authority.

The Riding Establishments Act 1964 defines the keeping of a riding establishment as 'the carrying on of a business of keeping horses for either or both of the following purposes, that is to say, the purpose of their being let out on hire for riding or the purpose of their being used in providing, in return for payment, instruction in riding,'

But as not including a reference to the carrying on of such a business:

  • in a case where the premises where the horses employed for the purposes of the business are kept are occupied by or under the management of the Secretary of Defence or
  • solely for Police purposes or
  • by the Zoological Society of London or
  • by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Sec. 6(1)).
  • Horses kept by a university providing veterinary courses are also exempt and the place at which a riding establishment is run is to be taken as the place at which the horses are kept (Sec 6(2) and (3)).

Making an application

If you want to apply for or renew an existing licence you can make an electronic application through  

You will also have to pay for the veterinary inspection costs before your licence can be issued.

Below are details of the current fees & charges.

Tacit consent

Tacit consent does not apply to applications for this licence as it is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact it. You can do this online if you applied through the UK Welcomes service or use the contact details below.


The Local Authority is required to receive a report by a listed veterinary surgeon or practitioner (See Power of Entry below) before making a decision and the report must be based on an inspection made not more than 12 months before the application was received.

Matters for consideration

In deciding whether or not to grant a licence, or provisional licence, the Local Authority must, without prejudice to its right to refuse a licence on other grounds, have regard to the following matters:

  • Whether that person appears to them to be suitable and qualified, either by experience in the management of horses or by being the holder of an approved certificate or by employing in the management of the riding establishment a person so qualified, to be the holder of such a licence
  • The need for securing
  • That paramount consideration will be given to the condition of horses and that they will be maintained in good health, and in all respects physically fit and that, in the case of a horse kept for the purpose of its being let out on hire for riding or a horse kept for the purpose of its being used in providing instruction in riding, the horse will be suitable for the purpose for which it is kept
  • That the feet of all animals are properly trimmed and that, if shod, their shoes are properly fitted and in good condition
  • That there will be available at all times, accommodation for horses suitable as respects construction, size, number of occupants, lighting, ventilation, drainage and cleanliness and that these requirements be complied with not only in the case of new buildings but also in the case of buildings converted for use as stabling
  • That in the case of horses maintained at grass there will be available for them at all times during which they are so maintained adequate pasture and shelter and water and that supplementary feeds will be provided as and when required;
  • That horses will be adequately supplied with suitable food, drink and (except in the case of horses maintained at grass, as long as they are so maintained) bedding material, and will be adequately exercised, groomed and rested and visited at suitable intervals
  • That all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent and control the spread among horses of infectious or contagious disease and that veterinary first aid equipment and medicines shall be provided and maintained in the premises
  • That appropriate steps will be taken for the protection and extrication of horses in case of fire and, in particular, that the name, address and telephone number of the licence holder or some other responsible person will be kept displayed in a prominent position on the outside of the premises and that instructions as to action to be taken in the event of fire, with particular regard to the extrication of horses, will be kept displayed in a prominent position on the outside of the premises
  • That adequate accommodation will be provided for forage, bedding, stable equipment and saddlery.

Persons under 18 years old or persons or bodies corporate disqualified under the following provisions may not be given a licence:

  • from keeping a riding establishment under the Riding Establishment Act 1964,
  • from keeping a dog under the Protection of Animals (Cruelty to Dogs) Act 1923 or (Scotland) Act 1934,
  • 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 an animal boarding establishment under the Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963 (Sec 1(2)).


Full licences continue for one year beginning on the day on which they came into force and then expire. The date of operation, depending upon the wishes of the applicant, is either the day on which it is granted or the 1st January next.

Provisional Licences operate for three months from the day on which they are granted and are used where the local authority is satisfied that it would not be justified in issuing a full licence. The three months period of operation may, on application before the expiration of the three months, be extended for a further period of not exceeding three months so long as this would not exceed a six months period in one year.

On the death of a licence holder, licences pass to his personal representative for a period of three months and then expire. The three months period may be extended at the Local Authority's discretion.


On granting a licence the local authority is required to specify conditions as appear necessary or expedient to achieve all the objectives set out in the paragraph headed 'Matters for Consideration' above. In addition the following conditions are required by the Act, whether specified in the licence or not:

  • a horse found on inspection of the premises by an authorised officer to be in need of veterinary attention shall not be returned to work until the holder of the licence has obtained at his own expense and has lodged with the local authority a veterinary certificate that the horse is fit for work;
  • no horse will be let out on hire for riding or used for providing instruction in riding without supervision by a responsible person of the age of 16 years or over unless (in the case of a horse let out for hire for riding) the holder of the licence is satisfied that the hirer of the horse is competent to ride without supervision;
  • the carrying on of the business of a riding establishment shall at no time be left in the charge of any person under 16 years of age;
  • the licence holder shall hold a current insurance policy which insures him against liability for any injury sustained by those who hire a horse from him for riding and those who use a horse in the course of receiving from him, in return for payment, instruction in riding and arising out of the hire or use of a horse and which also insures such persons in respect of any liability which may be incurred by them in respect of injury to any person caused by, or arising out of, the hire or use of a horse;
  • a register shall be kept by the licence holder of all horses in his possession aged three years and under and this register must be kept on the premises and shall be available for inspection by an authorised officer at all reasonable times.

Guidance on conditions for riding establishment licences is issued by the British Veterinary Association.

Disqualification and cancellation

In making a conviction under this Act, under the Protection of Animals Act 1911, the Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912, the Pet Animals Act 1951 or the Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963, the court may cancel any riding establishment licence held by the convicted person and may disqualify him from holding such a licence, whether or not he is a current holder, for such period as the court thinks fit. The cancellation or disqualification may be suspended by the court pending an appeal.

Power of entry

Local Authority officers and veterinary surgeons and practitioners listed by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and British Veterinary Association for this purpose, authorised in writing by the Local Authority, may, upon producing their authority if required, enter and inspect the following premises at all reasonable times:

  • licensed riding establishments;
  • premises subject to an application for a licence to run a riding establishment; and
  • unlicensed premises suspected of being used as a riding establishment.

This power extends to the inspection of any horses found on the premises. Persons wilfully obstructing or delaying authorised officers are subject on conviction to a maximum fine not exceeding level two.