Hire out horses licence (England)

How to apply for a licence to hire out horses, and the conditions you'll need to meet.

Applies to England

Contact your local council to apply for a licence if you want to run a business in England hiring out horses for riding.

This includes, for example:

  • riding schools
  • horse trekking
  • pony riding parties
  • hiring out horses for hunts (‘hunter hirelings’)
  • polo or polocrosse instruction
  • pony and donkey rides

The licence is valid for 1, 2 or 3 years. The council decides the cost and length of your licence.

You must renew your licence before it expires to continue to run the business.


The council will inspect your premises before giving you a licence. They may carry out additional inspections any time after it’s granted.

Inspections must be carried out by a qualified veterinarian who is registered to carry out inspections by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). An inspector from the council may also attend an inspection.

You’ll need to show the council that you can meet the licence conditions, for example by showing that your horses are:

  • kept in suitable accommodation
  • given adequate food and water
  • visited and exercised regularly
  • protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
  • protected in case of an emergency, like a fire
  • looked after by people who are trained to care for the horses

You’ll also need:

  • to keep any records ready for inspection, for example a register of all horses kept on the premises that are hired out
  • public liability insurance to cover injuries to or caused by people hiring your horses
  • to display the licence clearly on the premises

If an inspector thinks a vet should check one of your horses, you must get a certificate from the vet to show that the horse is fit before returning them to work.


You will not get a licence if you’ve committed an animal welfare offence or if you’ve been banned from:

  • hiring out horses
  • selling pets
  • boarding cats or dogs
  • breeding dogs
  • keeping or training animals for exhibition

You may not get a licence if you’ve committed other offences. Check with your local council.

You cannot leave anyone under 18 years old in charge of the riding establishment. Riders under 16 years old should be supervised, unless you’re sure that they do not need it.

Fines and penalties

If you hire out horses without a licence you could be imprisoned for up to 6 months or fined an unlimited amount. If you break the conditions of your licence, you could receive an unlimited fine.

Updates to this page

Published 4 November 2020

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