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 As the above video was produced in 2011, some of the information is no longer current for inspections in England following the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.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

A scoring system is being considered by the Subcommittee as a guidance tool for the inspector form, but is not yet in place. The scoring column has therefore been removed from the form for the time being. Please note that the report form is intended to be used primarily as a guidance tool to aid the professional judgement and expertise of inspectors in deciding whether a riding establishment should be recommended for licensing.

The Riding Establishments Subcommittee are pleased to advise that the updated Guidelines (England) have now also been uploaded. The Guidelines are to be read alongside the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 and the associated DEFRA guidance.

If you have any feedback or questions, please contact Stephanie in our Standards and Advice team –

Course Information

The Riding Establishment Training and Induction Course runs annually for both veterinary surgeons looking to become a Riding Establishment Inspector and for existing Riding Establishment Inspectors that need to complete their 5 year refresher training.

The Riding Establishments Subcommittee will be holding the 2021 inspector training and induction courses remotely. All inspectors who were due to complete their five-year refresher training in 2020 have been invited to attend the course in 2021.
Webinars will be released on 14 May, and delegates will be required to complete the webinar series by 10 June, in advance of attending a 1-hour Q&A session from 15 June.
The dates for the Q&A sessions have been circulated via email and attendees will need to confirm a session with our Registration department.
If you have any questions, or to confirm your attendance, please contact our Registration department at or 0207 202 0707.

Contact information

Query type

Contact name

Contact details

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

Stephanie Bruce-Smith

T  020 7202 0754

New applicants requiring further information and booking places on the course

Emma Rocha

 020 7202 0780

Postal correspondence

The postal address and fax number for all correspondence is:

Registration Department
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
Belgravia House
62-64 Horseferry Road

F 020 7222 2004