Riding establishment licence

A riding establishment licence is required from the Council for carrying on a business of keeping horses for the purpose of them being let out on hire for riding and / or the purpose of them being used in providing, in return for payment, instruction in riding.

Horse is defined as including any mare, gelding, pony, foal, colt, filly, stallion, ass, mule or jennet.

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In addition to horses and ponies in traditional riding schools, trail riding, orienteering and trekking have become popular, and establishments offering these activities require a riding establishment licence.  The running of beach ponies and donkeys, instruction in playing polo (other than on the pupil's own horse) and the hiring of horses for hacking and hunting also require a licence.

Any licence is required in respect of the premises or land at which the horses are kept. 

There are some exemptions from the requirement to obtain a licence which relate only to the Secretary of State for Defence, the Police, the Zoological Society for London, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and for universities that provide courses of study leading to a degree.

The Council is not permitted to issue a licence if a person is for the time being disqualified from:

  • keeping a pet shop under the Pet Animals Act 1951
  • having custody of animals under the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1954
  • keeping a boarding establishment for animals under the Animal Boarding Establishment Act 1963
  • keeping a riding establishment under the Riding Establishment Act 1964
  • owning, keeping, dealing in, transporting, working with, riding or driving animals under the Animal Health Act 1981
  • providing any service relating to animals which involves taking possession of animals under the Animal Health Act 1981
  • taking charge of animals for any purpose or taking possession of animals for the purpose of an activity in respect of which a disqualification is imposed under the Animal Health Act 1981
  • transporting, arranging for the transport of, dealing, owning, keeping or participating in the keeping of animals under the Animal Welfare Act 2006
  • being party to an arrangement under which gives entitlement to control or influence the way in which animals are kept under the Animal Welfare Act 2006
  • owning, keeping, dealing in, transporting, working with, using, riding or driving animals or for any purpose taking charge of animals under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006

Applications can be made by a body corporate or an individual who is aged over 18 years.

To apply for a riding establishment licence you will need to complete and submit an application form.  You can do this by downloading the application form which you will need to send to the address on the form or you can apply on line using this link:


Apply for a licence to operate a riding establishment


Alternatively, call 01209 615055 to arrange an appointment to make a telephone application - an additional charge is payable for the telephone application service.

The Council is not permitted to decide an application for a riding establishment licence unless it has considered a report from a veterinary surgeon or practitioner which has been authorised by the Council to carry out an inspection of the premises.  The veterinary report being considered cannot be used if the inspection to which it relates took place earlier than 12 months before the date application.

The veterinary surgeon or practitioner authorised to conduct the inspection must be one from a list of persons drawn up jointly between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association.

The Council has a general discretion to decide whether it will issue a licence or withhold a licence on any grounds.  However, in determining whether to grant a licence the Council is required to have regard to whether the applicant appears to be suitable and qualified to hold a licence and the need for securing that:-

  • paramount consideration will be given to the condition of the horses, that they will be maintained in good health and all respects physically fit and that the horse will be suitable for the purpose for which it is kept
  • feet of all animals are properly trimmed and that, if shod, their shoes are properly fitted and in good condition
  • there will be suitable accommodation for the horses
  • there will be available at all times, suitable accommodation in terms of construction, size, number of occupants, lighting, ventilation, drainage and cleanliness
  • in the case of horses maintained on grass there will be available for them at all times adequate pasture, shelter, water and that supplementary feed will be provided as and when required
  • horses will be adequately supplied with suitable food, drink and (unless horses are maintained at grass) bedding material and will be adequately exercised, groomed, rested and visited at suitable intervals
  • all reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent and control the spread amongst horses of infectious or contagious diseases and that veterinary first aid equipment and medicines shall be provided and maintained in the premises
  • appropriate steps will be taken for the protection and extrication of horses in case of a fire and that the name, address and telephone number of the licence holder (or some other responsible person) will be displayed in a prominent position on the outside of the premises 
  • adequate accommodation will be provided for forage, bedding, stable equipment and saddlery

We will aim to have your application determined within 6 weeks of a valid and complete application.  However, this is subject to the availability of an approved veterinary surgeon or practitioner. If we have been unable to determine your application in this time a licence will not be automatically granted due to public safety and animal welfare implications. Therefore, tacit consent does not apply.  This means that activities cannot be provided until a licence has been issued.  

If it is decided that a licence will be issued then a licence fee becomes payable.  Any licence issued will remain in force for one year from the date of issue and will then expire.  However, depending on your requirements, the licence can be issued to take effect on 1 January the following year which will then expire on 31 December the following year.

If the Council, having regard to all the circumstances, is not satisfied that it would be justified in granting a licence it can grant a provisional licence if this is supported by the veterinary surgeon or practitioner.  If this is the case then the provisional licence will come into force at the beginning of the day on which it is granted and will remain in force for three months.

If an application is made to extend the provisional licence before it has expired, then the Council may extend the period of three months for a further period not exceeding three months.  However, it is not permitted to authorise a person to keep a riding establishment by virtue of a provisional licence for more than 6 months in any period of one year. 

Please view the current licensing fees and charges to find out how much you will need to pay. You will be recharged the cost of the veterinary surgeon / practitioner inspection as part of the licence fee.    

All licences are subject to mandatory and general conditions under the Riding Establishment Act 1964 and as determined by the Council. It may also be necessary to attach additional specific conditions recommended following the inspection of the premises. 

Any person aggrieved by the refusal to grant a riding establishment licence, or by any condition (other than the mandatory conditions) subject to which the licence is proposed to be granted may appeal to the magistrates court.

It is recommended that an application for any further licence is made three months in advance of the date that the licence is due to expire. This is to allow time for a renewed licence to be issued in advance of the current one expiring.  If a renewal; application is still pending when the existing licence expires then this will mean that activities cannot be provided until a further licence is issued. 

There is a comprehensive range of business regulatory support services available to help and advise businesses to be more successful and compliant.

This includes licensing pre-application advice and licensing application assistance.