Legislation for Polo Providers

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Important Changes to REL's

As from the 1 October 2018 the way in which Riding Establishment Licences are assessed and granted will be following a new set of legislative regulations and guidance notes. Following a public consultation in 2016 by DEFRA the Animals Act was reviewed and all the legislation regarding the licensing of animal-based establishments was subsequently changed.

All REL’s that were granted prior to the 1st October 2018 will remain in force until they are due for review or renewal and then they will be assessed on the new criteria. The APSPH was integral to the decision-making process alongside all other sector groups who worked with DEFRA to make sure that the new guidelines and assessment is within our industry standards and capabilities.

We will continue to work with DEFRA and other key stakeholders to make sure that the polo community is considered in all relevant REL reviews and amendments.

The next review for these legislative changes will be five years from implementation. During this five year period it will be compulsory for Local District Councils to provide specific data to DEFRA. We recommend that in preparation for the changes you review the documents that have been published.

For a copy of the Animal Welfare Act, the full regulations and to read the guidance notes for local authorities (these form the check list for them during inspections, it will help you understand what they will be looking for and how they will rate your establishment as well as explain the new procedures), please scroll down to the download links.

We are here to help and de-mystify the whole process for you all. We are here to make sure it isn’t as imposing as you might think and that these changes are a positive step for Riding Establishment Licensing. Contact us if you have any questions, but check your emails regularly we will be sending out helpful information.

Do I need a Riding Establishment Licence?


The new regulations, The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 Guidance notes for conditions for hiring out horses July 2018, make it very clear about who needs to have a licence for hiring ponies, it lays out that anyone who makes more than £1000 per annum by hiring out horses regardless to whom from whom, for example; professional players, amateur players, polo schools, polo academies, pony hirers, then you are legitimately running a business by doing so and require to be regulated:

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

  1. 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.

Hiring out horses: definition in Schedule 1 of the regulations

“6. Hiring out horses in the course of a business for either or both of the following purposes-

(a) riding;
(b) instruction in riding.

(1) Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018

7. The activity described in paragraph 6 does not include any activity- (a) solely for military or police purposes, or (b) involving the instruction of students at a university on a course of study and examinations leading to a veterinary degree to which a recognition order under section 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966(2) relates and for as long as such an order is in force.”*

* The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 Guidance notes for conditions for hiring out horses July 2018, pg3-4

To view more about how the business test is applied by HMRC please click here.

What must I have before applying?

You can make your application at any time but you will not receive your licence until you have provided documentary proof of the following:

  • A valid insurance policy. Public liability to £5 million and employers liability to £10 million.
  • A copy of a valid up to date First Aid Certificate for the persons in direct contact with employees and clients
  • A copy of relevant qualifications, which in this case would be an HPA coaching certificate
  • Valid Pony Passports stamped by an issuing passport authority complete with microchip numbers
  • All relevant records, policies and procedures required by the REL regulations

How do I apply for an REL?


Application for your licence should be made to you local authority. This is usually the district council for your area.

  • It is advisable that you contact the Licensing Department of your local authority to check that your establishment falls within their boundaries. Quite often the local authority boundaries are not clear and an application to the wrong one will not be noticed straight away
  • When you contact them make sure you give them the full address and postcode so that they can check which local authority you need to apply to
  • Applications can usually be found on your local authority website, some of them can be filled out online and others you can download and post with payment
  • Each local authorities application will differ in layout and information requested but the basics are all the same
  • Payment rates will also differ. Some local authorities will have set fee’s and others will ask for payments which are rated on the number of equines you are intending to licence
  • There may also be different rates depending on whether you are applying for a new licence with that local authority or a renewal licence

Find Out Who Your Local Authority Is

What happens next?

Following your application submittal to your local authority they will contact you with details regarding your inspection date and who will be conducting the inspection.

  • Each local authority is different and who they send will depend on their resources. Some will send a representative from the council and a vet and others will only send a vet
  • Some local authorities that only send a vet may ask you to confirm the date and time directly with the vet
  • In some cases they will send you detailed information about what to expect and what will be needed in order to conduct the inspection 

What are the penalties of operating without a licence?

Anyone who is caught operating without a licence would, according to our correspondence with DEFRA, be prosecuted primarily under The Animal Welfare Act. It could also lead to prosecution by other departments such as trading standards, DVSA, HMRC and any other government department that feels their own legislation has been contravened as a result. (There was a published case in 2014 when an establishment in Wales was prosecuted by trading standards)   On the penalties, the wording on the gov.uk page still refers to the old Act, DEFRA are working on having this updated.

The penalty is in section 32(2) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The offence of not having a licence is under section 13(6). Not having a licence makes you liable to an unlimited fine or up to 6 months in prison. 

Click here for the Animals Act


Health and Safety information, requirements and details about RIDDOR can be found on he HSE Government Website

Take me to the hse website

The Guidance Publications from DEFRA

This link will take you to the gov. website for the DEFRA published guidance notes

Find out more

Looking up OFQUAL Registered Qualifications can be done on this link:



To understand more about RIDDOR and when and how to report it visit:


We Are Only an Advisory Body

It is important to note that the APSPH and its Director are primarily about promoting REL's the resources and information provided is intended in an advisory capacity and cannot replace establishments own due-diligence. Establishments and proprietors must make every effort to look up and understand all the legislation and commitments that they require themselves. We also advise that they use their own independent professional services to check their requirements i.e legal and HSE teams or request confirmations from LA's.

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