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Horses on Farms and Livery Yards

Keeping farm and livery horses will mean looking after their welfare and stables. Check the legal requirements of having horses on farms and in livery yards.

FARM HORSES: A horse is an agricultural animal if it farms agricultural land. Being farmed for its meat or hides also applies.

Eating horse meat in the United Kingdom is not commonplace.

But, some abattoirs process horsemeat for use in cat and dog food. They also export it to Europe where eating horse meat is more common.

Note: It is illegal to export live horses for slaughter abroad.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 protects horses on farms, in stables and in livery yards.

If you are responsible for looking after a horse, even if you do not own one, you have a duty of care for its welfare. The basic responsibilities of looking after horses include:

  • Providing it with a suitable habitat in which to live. This is usually a stable, but it can also include a field with shelter (e.g. trees).
  • Making sure you follow the basic rules for feeding horses by giving it a suitable diet. The food nutrition and the quantity should be appropriate for its particular breed.
  • Keeping Horses on Farms and in Livery Yards in the United Kingdom

  • Taking all reasonable precautions to prevent the animal from injury, pain, and suffering. That also means protecting all horses against disease and infection.
  • Ensuring it has an opportunity to behave in a way that is normal and natural for equines.

Warning: If you do not take good care of or are cruel to an animal, you can get prosecuted. If found guilty, you can receive an unlimited fine and get sent to jail for a maximum of 6 months. You may also face a future lifetime ban on owning animals.

Defra set the standards for the care of horses on farms and in livery yards. Check their ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids’.

The Crown Prosecution Service may use this Code of Practice against offenders. Thus, they can apply these codes when prosecuting people under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Horse Stables and Liveries

The definition of a livery yard is a one that cares and houses horses or donkeys for payment. But, the land and any buildings used do not belong to the renter. A livery stable must also have an area for exercising equines. It can be a yard or field.

The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health set out and define the health and safety standards for livery yards. Check publication number ISBN 978-1-910676-10-3 for further details.

Planning Permission for Horse Stables and Livery Yards

Building stables or a livery yard means you will need planning permission in England, Wales, and in Scotland. You can make online planning applications through the ‘Planning Portal’. It is a joint venture between TerraQuest Ltd, Local Government, and the Department for Communities.

  • ‘Business Wales’ deals with planning permission for horse stables in Wales.
  • In Northern Ireland, you can contact ‘NIDirect.gov’ for further information on planning applications for horse stables.
  • ‘MyGov.Scot’ handles planning applications for stables and livery yards in Scotland.

Horse Waste Management

Dealing with Horse Manure

For horse manure not to get considered as waste product all the following must apply. People who are looking after horses on farms must make sure the manure is:

  1. Used as soil fertiliser.
  2. Used ‘lawfully’ for spreading on ‘clearly’ identified areas of agricultural land.
  3. Stored only for later use of spreading on agricultural land.

Storing or spreading equine waste near to standing and running water can be a health hazard. It can also be harmful to the local environment.

Note: Read guidance on ‘Nitrate Vulnerable Zones’ and ‘Rules on the pollution of groundwater’.

How to get Rid of Solid Waste

Items of solid waste relating to farm and livery horses can include:

  • Contaminated bedding used by horses.
  • Food containers.
  • Horse manure (if not used as a fertiliser for soil).
  • Empty containers (e.g. containing pesticide and chemicals).
  • Plastics products such as silage wrap, bail bags, and sheets.
  • Tyres, batteries, equine medical waste, old machinery, and oil.

Warning: It is against the law to dump or burn solid waste. You will need to use a licenced facility to dispose of this type of waste.

Further information on how to dispose of solid waste is available from your local authority or the Environment Agency.

Environment Agency Helpline
Telephone: 03708 506 506
Call charges to numbers starting with 03.

Some biodegradable waste is compostable. The Environment Agency has a registry of composting plants allowed. On-site composting of certain biodegradable materials will require an environmental permit.

Note: It does not apply to horse waste deposited while out riding. The dog mess law does not apply, especially if it gets deposited on a public highway. The Highway Code for horse riders states you must not endanger yourself or other road users.

Transporting Horses

The transportation of horses falls under the farming business rules and regulations in the United Kingdom. All horses, ponies, and donkeys need a horse passport (even zebras). You cannot transport or export equines without a passport.

An exception applies to semi-wild ponies in Dartmoor, Exmoor, the New Forest, and Wicken Fen. They only need a passport if they are under your control (e.g. wearing a saddle or on a farm).

When transporting any equine animal you must not cause them harm or distress. You may need a ‘Certificate of Competence to transport horses for commercial purposes.

Horse Death and Diseases

Your local Animal Health Office deals with horse deaths and disease. You must contact them without delay if you believe a horse or donkey has a notifiable disease. The dead or diseased animal does not need to belong to you to make this notification.

Fallen Stock: Animal By-products

You are responsible for the disposal of a horse if it dies or gets put down on your premises. The animal then comes under ‘fallen stock’ which covers all live stock. The disposal must get carried out under the animal by-products (ABPs) controls in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

ABP controls include:

  • The entire horse carcass.
  • Parts of the horse.
  • Stillborn animals and afterbirth.
  • Products from animals that are not for human consumption.

To protect humans, animals, and the environment, ABPs must get dealt with promptly. As a rule, this means arranging for their removal to approved premises such as:

  • Collection centres (knackers’ yard).
  • Hunt kennels or maggot farms.
  • Incinerators, rendering plants, or storage plants.

The local council has an approved list of premises that handle the disposal of ABPs. They can assist farmers and equine owners to follow the law on the disposal of fallen stock. In most cases, the not-for-profit National Fallen Stock Scheme can help.

National Fallen Stock Scheme Helpline
Telephone: 0845 054 8888

Keeping Horses on Farms and in Livery Yards in the United Kingdom