Hiring out of horses

A licence is required before anyone can let a horse, pony or donkey out for hire. This includes pony parties and riding lessons.

This is designed to ensure the welfare of the animals, as well as the suitability of their accommodation.

A licence may only be issued (or denied) by the local authority. This will follow an inspection and report by a vet who is authorised to carry out an inspection on the list of vets held by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Riding Establishments Inspectorate List.

The vet will be chosen and appointed by the local authority. The cost of the vet's inspection will be met by the applicant.

You must hold adequate public liability insurance to hire out horses for riding.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018

Changes have been made to improve the existing animal licensing regulations. These changes aim to simplify the application and inspection process for businesses and improve existing animal welfare animal standards.

The updated regulations are called the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.  

The changes came into effect on 1 October 2018.

Further information and guidance

How long does a licence last?

Under the new legislation, licences can be issued for up to three years.

The licence expiry date will depend on the risk rating that is given to the business at the time of inspection. It will also depend on compliance with both the general conditions and the higher standards.

Is planning permission required?

Applicants must make sure they have the relevant planning permission.

We recommend that you discuss your proposal with our Planning team

Inspections and Star Ratings

All premises will be inspected before the licence is granted. The inspector will be looking to make sure the applicant has the following:

  • A specialist knowledge of the species you are caring for
  • A clear understanding of its needs and welfare (this includes the mental and physical health of the animal, feeding and environmental requirements). The applicant should be able to demonstrate that the necessary research has been carried out, and expert guidance has been followed
  • Comprehensive records containing all the information required by the conditions relevant to the applicant
  • An understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal. This includes an extensive risk assessment, as well as written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. These documents should be available for the inspector to examine
  • Training procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them
  • Clear evidence of good supervision of staff
  • The applicant's premises will also be assessed, to make sure that the new laws relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept are met
  • Adequate procedures in place to ensure the health and safety of staff and members of the public

Based on the information, we will assess the risk rating and award stars. Low-risk premises can be awarded up to five stars. Premises that have been assessed as higher risk can be awarded up to four stars.

If the applicant is not satisfied with the decision, they can make improvements to address highlighted issues, and ask for a re-inspection (fees apply). 

Premises with lower star ratings

A premises with a lower star rating is not necessarily a premises to avoid. There are other factors that have to be considered, such as the length of time the licence holder has been operating.

New businesses will be assessed as slightly higher risk. This is simply because there is no history of good practice that can be considered.

Information on how the length of a licence and the star rating are decided can be found in the procedural guidance notes for local authorities February 2022.

How do I improve my rating?

DEFRA have produced some guidance to aid the inspection process. There are some ‘optional’ and ‘required’ conditions which may help you to achieve a higher star rating.

If customers have any concerns, please contact the Food and Safety Team before making a purchase or making booking arrangements.


Apply for Hiring Out of Horses (Word document)

Apply for Hiring Out of Horses (alternative PDF document version)

How much does a licence cost?

Fees will be payable for applications.

Pay for a new application or renewal online

Please note you need to submit an application form as well as make the payment.

What if I want to add a new horse to my licence

The new horse would need to be inspected by your vet before it can be included and a signed form returned to us. Fees apply.

What can I do if my licence application is refused?

Appeals against a decision not to issue a licence or against any conditions imposed must be made through the Magistrates Court.

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