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Riding stables


A licence granted by the appropriate local authority is required to keep a riding establishment under legislation in Great Britain and separate regulations in Northern Ireland.

England, Scotland and Wales

A licence granted by the appropriate local authority is required to keep a “riding establishment”; i.e. to carry on the business of keeping horses either for letting out on hire for riding or for providing riding instruction in return for payment, or both (Riding Establishments Act 1964 s 1(1)).


In considering whether to grant a licence, the local authority must have regard to the suitability of the applicant or his manager, the suitability of the accommodation and pasturage, the adequacy of the provisions for the horses' health, welfare and exercise, the precautions against fire and disease, and the suitability of the horses for the purposes for which they are kept.

The authority must not decide whether to grant a licence until it has received and considered a report by its inspecting veterinary surgeon or veterinary practitioner of the result of an inspection of the relevant premises.

Disqualified persons: no one who is disqualified from keeping a riding establishment, from keeping a pet shop, from having the custody of animals, from keeping an animal boarding establishment, or from owning, keeping, dealing in or transporting animals, or who is under 18 may obtain such a licence.

The licence must specify the premises at which the business is to be carried on and may include conditions as to its operation.

Tacit consent: it appears that some authorities apply tacit consent and some not.
An appeal lies to a magistrates' court against the refusal of a licence or against any condition included in it, and the court may give such directions as to the issue of a licence and its conditions as it thinks proper.

How to apply: enquire of the local authority for details of the application process or visit GOV.UK.

Further information: see the Defra Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrid


Criminal enforcement

It is an offence to keep a riding establishment without a licence, and to contravene or fail to comply with any condition of the licence. There are other offences created under the Act, e.g. in connection with letting out a horse on hire, or using it to provide riding instruction in return for payment or for demonstration riding, when it is in such a condition that riding it would be likely to cause it suffering, or when it is aged three years or under, or is a mare heavy with foal or within three months after foaling. Any of the above offences is punishable on summary conviction with a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both.

A court convicting a person of any of these offences or of an offence under certain other Acts relating to animals may cancel his licence to keep a riding establishment and, whether or not he is so licensed, disqualify him from keeping a riding establishment for such period as the court thinks fit.

Northern Ireland

Similar legislation applies in Northern Ireland. See GOV.UK

{Page updated: 11/01/2013]


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