The requirement for ‘riding establishments’ to hold a licence
Under the Riding Establishments Act 1964 (REA 1964), where a person wishes to ‘keep a riding establishment’ he must obtain a licence from his local authority.
What is a ‘riding establishment’?
A riding establishment is a business which keeps horses either for letting out on hire for riding and/or which provides riding lessons in return for payment.
Do the regulations apply to all types of horses?
The regulations apply to mares, geldings, ponies, foals, colts, fillies, stallions, mules, asses, and jennets.
Are there any exemptions to the requirement to hold a licence?
There is no requirement to hold a licence where horses are kept solely for police purposes or by the Zoological Society of London, or kept by a university to instruct students studying an approved course leading to a degree in veterinary science. A licence is also not required where horses are kept on land occupied by, or under the management of, the Secretary of State for Defence.
Can a licence be granted to anyone?
A licence cannot be granted if a person is:
- disqualified from keeping a riding establishment, a pet shop or an animal boarding establishment;
- disqualified from owning, keeping, dealing in, having custody of or transporting animals.
- under the age of 18.
False information given when applying for a licence
Where applying for a licence knowingly, or recklessly, provides false information or makes a false statement, they commit a criminal offence and may be fined and/or imprisoned. Any licence granted may also be cancelled and the person disqualified from keeping a riding establishment for such time as the court thinks fit.
What matters will a local authority take into account when deciding whether to grant a licence?
A local authority is required to obtain and consider a vet’s report before it can grant a licence. The vet must have inspected the relevant premises not more than 12 months before the application or since the date of the application.
When deciding whether to grant a licence, the local authority will take into account the suitability of the applicant or his manager and the suitability of the accommodation and the pasture.
The local authority will want to ensure there are adequate provisions relating to the health, welfare and exercise of the horses and that reasonable precautions will be taken to prevent the spread of disease and to guard against fire. The local authority will also want to ensure the horses are suitable for the purposes for which they are kept.
If a local authority is not satisfied that a permanent licence should be granted it can grant a provisional licence for three months under the Riding Establishments Act 1970.
A person is forbidden from keeping a riding establishment under a provisional licence for more than six months in any one year.
Conditions of a licence
Every licence is subject to conditions even if these are not expressly set out in the licence itself. These are that:
- any horses, found on inspection to require veterinary attention, will not be used until certified fit;
- provision is made for the proper supervision of riders who require it;
- the business will not be left in the charge of a person under the age of 16 years;
- proper insurance will be held; and
- a register of horses aged three years and under will be kept.
A local authority may specify additional conditions. For example, it may require an applicant to hold an Assistant Instructor’s Certificate, Instructor’s Certificate or fellowship issued by the British Horse Society or a fellowship of the Institute of the Horse.
Where a person contravenes a licence condition, they may commit a criminal offence and be fined and/or imprisoned. The licence may also be cancelled and the holder disqualified from holding a licence for as long as a court thinks fit. Where a court cancels a licence or disqualifies a person, it may suspend the operation of the order pending an appeal.
How long does a licence last?
Any licence granted will, unless cancelled in the intervening period, need to be renewed on an annual basis.
If the holder of a licence dies, the licence passes to his personal representatives for up to 12 months.
If an applicant wants to appeal against any conditions of a licence or against a refusal to grant a licence, they may do so to the magistrates’ court.
What are the consequences of failing to obtain a licence?
Where a person is required to obtain a licence and fail to do so, they commit a criminal offence and may be fined and/or imprisoned. They may also be disqualified from holding such a licence for such time as the court thinks fit.
Inspections by local authorities and vets
A local authority has the power to inspect, or authorise a person from another local authority or a vet to carry out an inspection on its behalf, any premises at which it believes a riding establishment is being kept, whether licensed or not.
Where an inspection is carried out, the inspector has the power to enter the premises and inspect the horses and things at the premises, for the purpose of making a report or to establish whether an offence has been, or is being, committed under REA 1964.
It is an offence to conceal, or cause to be concealed, any horse where the intention is to avoid an inspection of the horse, punishable with a fine and/or imprisonment. It is also an offence to wilfully obstruct or delay such an inspector, punishable with a fine. The court also has the power to cancel the licence and disqualify the person from keeping a riding establishment for such period as it deems fit.
Animal welfare and safety
In addition to the requirement to hold a licence, there are a number of criminal offences relating to riding establishments. Where one of these offences is committed, the court can fine and/or imprison the offender, cancel their licence and disqualify them from keeping a riding establishment.
Offences relating to the welfare of horses
It is an offence to:
- hire out a horse, or to use a horse for the purpose of providing riding lessons in return for payment or for demonstration riding, if the horse is in such a condition that riding it is likely to cause the horse suffering, or if the horse is less than three years old, is a mare in foal, or has foaled within three months.
- fail to provide suitable care for sick and/or injured horses kept for the purpose of hiring out, for the purpose of providing riding lessons in return for payment or for demonstration riding.
- supply defective equipment, for a horse which is hired out, and which is likely to cause suffering to the horse.
Further offences relating to the welfare of animals in general were created by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Offences relating to the safety of riders
It is an offence to supply defective equipment, for a horse which is hired out, and which is likely to cause an accident to the rider of the horse.
Offences relating to employees of riding establishments
It is an offence to knowingly allow a person disqualified from keeping a riding establishment to have control or management of a riding establishment.