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Licence - Hiring Horses

When is a licence required?

Schedule 1 of The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 suggests that a licence is required where:

"6.  Hiring out horses in the course of a business for either or both of the following purposes—

(a )riding;

(b) instruction in riding.

7.  The activity described in paragraph 6 does not include any activity—

(a) solely for military or police purposes, or

(b) involving the instruction of students at a university on a course of study and examinations leading to a veterinary degree to which a recognition order under section 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966(17) relates and for as long as such an order is in force."

There is further guidance that a council must take into account in determining whether an activity is being carried on in the course of a business for the purposes of this Schedule include, for example, whether the operator— (a) makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or (b) earns any commission or fee from the activity.  There is also government advice that anyone with a trading income of less than £1,000 should not be considered to be operating a business.

In scope criteria

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are subject to licensing:

  1. Businesses which hire out horses for riding or for riding lessons. This includes riding schools and those that hire out horses, trekking, loan horses, pony parties (but only where the ponies are ridden), hunter hirelings, polo/polocrosse instruction and pony hire, pony and donkey rides.

Out of scope criteria

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are not subject to licensing:

  1. Businesses that run pony parties where none of the ponies are ever ridden – these should be licensed as animal exhibits.
  2. Activities that are carried out solely for military or police purposes (for example riding stables that are used exclusively for these purposes).
  3. Riding stables that are used exclusively for instructing veterinary students at university for the purpose of their course.
  4. Individuals who occasionally lend a horse, even if a small fee is charged, where there is no profit made and no intent to make a profit.


Guidance and Conditions

Details of the conditions which licence holders need to meet are detailed in the Guidance notes for conditions for hiring horses (see link below). General conditions apply in respect of:

  • Licence display
  • Records
  • Use, number and type of animal
  • Staffing
  • Suitable environment
  • Suitable diet
  • Monitoring of behaviour and training of animals
  • Animal handling and interactions
  • Protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease
  • Emergencies

Specific, extra conditions for hiring horses set out rules for:

  • Eligibility
  • Supervision
  • Suitable environment
  • Suitable diet
  • Protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease
  • Equipment

Before a licence is issued an inspection will be undertaken by an experienced council animal licensing officer. This will include a visit from a vet for a new licence holder.

Where a licence holder is expected to have written plans, procedures, or documented checks, officers will wish to see these as part of the inspection.

A licence with a score of one star can be issued to a previously licensed business if they have 'minor failings' which are predominantly administrative or if they are in relation to standards, they do not compromise the welfare of the animals. New applicants can only be licenced if they meet or exceed the minimum standards.  Businesses meeting minimum standards will be graded 2 or 3 stars.  Those meeting the higher standards, as laid down in the guidance, will score 4 or 5 stars. Although a licence may run for more than one year the horses at the establishment will need to be checked annually.


Refund Policy

Please note that refunds of licence fees are not normally given. Only in exceptional circumstances, as deemed by the Licensing Manager, will a refund be considered. Any refunds given may be subject to an administration charge.


Applying for a licence

Application form: Application Form PDF   

Guidance:  Guidance PDF (461K)

Inspection check list: Checklist PDF (882K)

Apply online:  Not Currently Available


Appealing against an application refusal or grading

Please contact Environmental Health on 01782 717717 in the first instance.


Last updated 9 July 2021

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