Skip to content

Licensing riding establishments in Scotland and Wales

Under the Acts of 1964 and 1970, riding establishments are required to be licensed by the local authority in which the establishment operates.

The 1964 Act requires a person keeping a riding establishment to have a licence granted by the local authority for the purpose, and sets out the requirements for this licensing system.  The 1970 Act, allows a local authority to grant a provisional licence for the same purpose.

A licence may only be issued or denied by the local authority following an inspection and report by a veterinary surgeon.  The inspection MUST be carried out by a current member of the RCVS/BVA Inspectorate of approved veterinary surgeons (RE Act 1964 S.2(3)) and listed in this document.

Scope of the Act

The term ‘riding establishment’ means the carrying on of a business “of keeping horses to let them out on hire for riding, or for use in providing instruction in riding for payment, or both” (RE Act 1964 S.6(1))

In scope activities will include riding schools, trekking and trail ride centres, pony parties (but only where the ponies are ridden), hunter hirelings, polo/polocrosse instruction and hire (unless on the riders own horse), pony and donkey rides.

Out of scope activities are pony parties where none of the ponies are ridden; carriage driving lessons; activities that are carried out solely for military or police purposes; riding stables that are used exclusively for instructing veterinary students at university for the purpose of their course.

The Veterinary Inspector is appointed by the local authority for the purposes of carrying out the inspection, it is recommended that the veterinary inspector is accompanied by the relevant local authority officer (usually from the environmental health department).

The appointed Veterinary Inspector must:

  • Inspect each horse together with its saddlery and give an opinion on each animal’s suitability and the condition of the saddlery in respect of the welfare of the horse and safety of the rider.
  • Advise the local authority on the suitability of the premises to carry out the functions it claims to operate.
  • Give a recommendation on the premises as a whole in respect of issuing a licence.

The 1970 Act allows a local authority to give a provisional licence where considerable improvements to the premises are required before a full licence can be awarded.  The provisional licence is granted for three months and will specify conditions that need to be satisfied before the issue of a full licence.  A second provisional licence may be granted for a further three months, but no more than two may be granted in any 12 months.  Full licences are renewed annually by the Local Authority following an inspection by a veterinary inspector.

Full guidance on premises that require or are exempt from inspection and details of the requirements of the inspection, can be found on the RCVS website here: Riding Establishments Guidelines (Scotland and Wales).