Toggle menu

Hiring out horses

The Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 (opens new window) came into force on 1 October 2018 and covers the 'hiring out' of horses. The legislation defines the 'hiring out' of horses as 'in a course of a business for either or both riding and instruction in riding'. To determine if you are a business, you will need to consider the 'business test'. You may also wish to to review the Riding Establishment Act 1964 (opens new window).

Prior to submitting an animal licence application, you must ensure you contact our Planning Department to obtain the relevant planning permissions for your business.

Business test

In the legislation, a business is defined as an operator who:

  • makes any sale by, or otherwise carries on, the activity with a view to making a profit, or
  • earns any commission or fee from the activity.

An announcement made in the 2016 Government Budget included an allowance of £1,000 for trading income from April 2017. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered on the context of determining whether they are a business.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) (opens new window) states that these conditions are not the exclusive factors to be considered, but are examples. Other factors, such as those listed in the badges of trade set out by the HMRC (opens new window) are also relevant. The guidance assists inspectors, but ultimately there is an element of judgement in deciding upon the business test.

If you aren't sure if you're classed as a business, please email with the details of your business and we can help to determine this.

Riding establishments that require a licence

Businesses which hire out horses for riding or riding lessons will need a licence. A licence is also needed for:

  • riding schools
  • those that hire out horses
  • trekking
  • loan horses
  • pony parties (but only where the ponies are ridden)
  • hunter hirelings
  • polo or polocrosse instruction
  • pony hire
  • pony and donkey rides.

Licence exemptions

The following activities do not need a licence:

  • businesses that run pony parties, where none of the ponies are ever ridden. These should instead be licensed as animal exhibits
  • activities that are carried out solely for military or police purposes (for example, riding stables that are used exclusively for these purposes)
  • riding stables that are used exclusively for instructing veterinary students at University, for the purpose of their course
  • individuals who occasionally lend a horse, even if a small fee is charged, where there isn't any profit being made and has no intent to make a profit.

Apply for a riding establishment licence

To apply for a licence to hire out horses, please:

You may also want to refer to the legislation and guidance (opens new window) when making an application. 

Please pay the application fee associated with the type of licence you are applying for first. The compliance fees are paid after the inspection is completed and the length of the licence is determined.

Check a riding establishment licence or rating

When choosing a riding establishment, ensure you select a licensed establishment. Since October 2018, all animal welfare licence holders must:

  • clearly display their licence on their premises, and
  • display their name and licence number on any website they use.

Licences also contain a star rating which the business has achieved. We recommend businesses display their star rating on any website they use, but this is not a legal requirement.

If a licence number is not displayed at a riding establishment business, you can check if they are licensed by:

If you have any concerns about a premises in the South Holland district, please email with the details of the premises. If you feel it is urgent, please call us on 01775 761161. Please clearly state your concerns and your reason for them. All matters of concern will be investigated and complaints are kept confidential.