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Hiring out horses

Find out what type of licence you need in order to hire out horses.


  • Find out details about the licence and how to apply
  • Find out about the application process

Do I need a Riding Establishment Licence?

Under the new Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 any business or person will require a licence if they wish to hire out horses.

This licence applies to businesses or individuals who are operating on a commercial basis.

The circumstances which our Licensing, Food and Safety Team must take into account when determining whether an activity is being carried out as part of a business include if the business/individual: 

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

If you make at least £1000.00 in income you would be classed as a business. Anyone falling under this threshold would not need to be considered in the context of determining whether they are a business.

What are the criteria of the licence?

Activities that fulfil one or more of the following criteria are subject to licensing:

  • Businesses which hire out horses for riding or for riding lessons. This includes riding schools and those that hire out horses, trekking, loan horses, pony parties (but only where the ponies are ridden), hunter hirelings, polo/polocrosse instruction and pony hire, pony and donkey rides.

Please read the Licence Conditions

Download the Licence Conditions for Hiring Out Horses

How much does it cost to apply?

See our licensing fees and charges

How can I apply?

Download the application form

Please send your completed application to the Licensing, Food and Safety Team, Colchester Borough Council, Rowan House, 33 Sheepen Road, CO3 3WG.

How do I renew my license? 

You must renew your licence each year if you wish to continue to hire out horses.

You can renew your licence by emailing, or by calling our Licensing, Food and Safety Team on 01206 282520.

How long will my application take?

We aim to complete your application within 10 weeks of receiving it.

What is the inspection process? 

All premises will be inspected before a licence is granted the Officer will be looking to make sure the applicant has the at least the following.

  • A specialist knowledge in the species that they are caring for and a clear understanding of its needs and welfare. This would include the animals' mental and physical health, feeding and knowledge of environmental enrichment. The applicant should be able to demonstrate that they have researched and followed expert guidance in order to carry out their role
  • Comprehensive records that contain all the information required by the conditions that apply to their particular activities
  • An understanding of risks involved in caring for the animal, including an extensive risk assessment and written policies and procedures that are reviewed regularly. These documents should be available for the Inspector to examine
  • Training Procedures in place to make sure staff know what is expected of them, and clear evidence of good supervision of staff

The premises itself will also be assessed so we can be sure the licence holder can meet the new laws relating to the physical environment in which the animals will be kept. 

Please note: On all applications a veterinarian will be required to inspect the horse riding establishment. The fees for the vet and inspection report will be charged in addition to the processing and grant costs of your licence. You will be invoiced separately for this.

Can I start trading before the decision for my licence is determined?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted.

If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us on 01206 282520 or email

What can I do if my application is unsuccessful and I would like to appeal?

For suspensions, variation without consent or revocations in the first instance please contact the Licensing, Food and Safety Team on 01206 282520 or email

If you are still not satisfied you can appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. There is a 28 day appeal period.