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Riding Establishments

RCVS Riding Establishment Inspections

Under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 for England and Riding Establishments Acts 1964 and 1970 for Scotland and Wales, riding establishments are required by law to be licensed by local authorities.

The licence may only be issued or denied by the local authority following an inspection and report by a veterinary surgeon who is a member of the RCVS Inspectorate.

Environmental Health departments of local authorities have responsibility for enforcing health and safety legislation in the majority of riding establishments. They investigate reportable accidents and undertake health and safety inspections which they may carry out during licensing visits. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers (CIEH) have published comprehensive guidance on relevant legislation, suggested control measures etc intended for use by enforcement officers, proprietors and other interested parties, available free to download from the CIEH site.  

NB. As the above video was produced in 2011, some of the information is no longer current for inspections in England following the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

Inspectors carrying out inspections in England should note the following:

  • The video references annual licenses, however the Regulations provide for both annual and extended two/three year licenses;
  • The video does not reference interim inspections, which are provided for under the Regulations where an establishment has an extended license;
  • The video references three monthly provisional licenses, which are not provided as an option under the Regulations; and
  • The video does not reference local authority inspectors, though they are usually actively involved in the inspection process under the Regulations.

The inspection requirements in the video remain current for inspections taking place in Scotland and Wales.

Finally, please note that while the Donkey Sanctuary advocate for getting donkeys properly microchipped and collaborate with the BHS and NEWC where owners can get this done at a reduced fee, they are no longer able to offer free microchipping unless it is necessary to support welfare.

Riding Establishment Inspectors and working donkeys

There could be as many as 1,000 working donkeys in the UK, mostly found around our coastline. Recently, however, more ventures using donkeys for riding other than beach are appearing, such as fairs and children’s parties. Any vet registered as an inspector may be called upon by the local authority to complete the annual inspection of licensed riding establishments in their locality.

Ridden-donkey operations should be inspected with the same care and attention given to horse riding stables and are licensed under the same Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 or Riding Establishments Acts of 1964 and 1970.

Donkeys are different from horses, and beach donkey riding is a seasonal business. These and other factors need to be taken into account when planning and performing the inspection.

More information can be found on working donkeys on the Donkey Sanctuary website.

Useful documents

The list of approved riding establishment inspectors is available to download below.

Licensing authorities and their inspectors should use the forms of application and inspection report below.

An updated Riding Establishment Veterinary Inspector's Form (England) and Guidelines (England) have been uploaded. The updates have been made in line with the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and the associated DEFRA guidance. The form can be used for both full and interim inspections while we await further clarification from DEFRA as to the remit of the interim inspections. If you have any feedback or questions, please contact Stephanie Bruce-Smith in our Standards and Advice team on [email protected]

Course information

If you have any questions for the Riding Establishments Subcommittee, please fill in the form here: Q&A form

2024 Course dates and information will be communicated to refreshing Inspectors and new applicants via email in February 2024. Find out about upcoming training and induction courses here.

REIN newsletter

The 2024 edition of the Riding Establishments Inspector Newsletter (REIN) can be found here.

Contact details

Query type

Contact name

Contact details

Member of the public, course information, existing inspector or local authority

Stephanie Bruce-Smith

T 0207 202 0754
E  [email protected]

New applicants requiring further information and booking places on the course

Emma Cameron

 020 7202 0780
E  [email protected]

Postal correspondence

The postal address for all correspondence is:

Registration Department
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
3 Waterhouse Square,
138 – 142 Holborn,