ABRS+ held the second online meeting with Riding Establishment proprietors on Monday 30 May 22. The meeting, one of a series that will be held in the coming months, to review Guidance to the Council Licensing Regulations in England.
At the last meeting, held in April 22, the following conclusions were reached from a review of the Introduction to the Guidance:
- Inspectors and Inspections. While there are Council Licensing inspectors that are well-qualified and experienced in equine welfare, most riding establishments attending the meeting had encountered Inspectors that either had no relevant qualifications or inadequate experience. Often the Inspectors had an Environmental Health background or, although having a L3 qualification in Animal Welfare, had no equine knowledge. The result is that the inspections tended to be a ‘tick box’ exercise rather than a genuine assessment of the fitness of a riding establishment to hold a License. The meeting concluded that Inspectors should have both equine qualifications and experience, and should be trained in the applications of the regulations to ensure consistent interpretation.
- Use of Loan Agreements to Circumvent Licensing. There is anecdotal evidence of some riding establishments using loan agreements to circumvent the requirement for licensing. There needs to be better guidance on when and how loan agreements can be used when riding instruction is also being provided – in essence, if the riding establishment looks like a riding school, it should be licensed.
- Cost of Licensing. The charges applied to licensing, and changes to the license, vary widely nationally and, in some cases, appear to be disproportionate to the licensing activity being undertaken by Councils. ABRS+ needs to undertake a review of licensing charges to determine what is being charged and for what activities, and to see how this varies nationally.
- ‘Star Rating’. The use of the term ‘Star Rating’ is misleading when applied to a Riding Establishment. Most clients would assume that this rating would describe the overall service being provided by the establishment – including quality of coaching and client care – when the rating applies only to the welfare of horses.
The meeting on 30 May 22, started to review Section A of the Guidance. The following observations were made:
- Section 4.0 Staffing.
- 4.1 – Sufficient Trained Staff: Proprietors are finding it difficult to find sufficient staff. Colleges are not seen as a satisfactory source of supply. Individuals coming out of colleges do not have sufficient experience to be effective in yards and are often reluctant to work at weekends or in the evenings. Colleges and their teaching staff are equally unhappy; many students entering College for equine studies do so to satisfy the statutory need to stay in training to 18 rather than from a genuine motivation to enter the equine industry.
- 4.2 – Training on Entry:
Yards struggled to provide structured induction training on animal welfare – having both the appropriate materials and finding time in delivery. They would value an online training package to cover the induction requirement – supported by a certificate of attainment.
The Guidance introduced a requirement that staff who care for the horses are competent by experience and training or through having undertaken L2 training. There is an option for competence to be gained through an industry-led course. In the context of the ABRS+, we need to provide advise on which test would provide the agreed level of competence (ie equivalent to a L2 course) to meet the licensing requirement.
- 4.3 – Continuation Training:
ABRS+ could support members with a series of on-line 45 min CPD events from October to March in the lunch hour (13.00 to 14.00)
ABRS+ Conference could be open to all, and provide CPD events for Proprietors and staff (with just the AGM closed to ABRS+ members)
- 5.0 Suitable environment.
- 5.1 Areas should prevent minimal risk to horses:
The regulations effectively prohibit the use of barbed wire. There were mixed views on whether barbed wire is an issue – and its use is prevalent where farming and riding coexist. The general view is that the primary issue is effective maintenance – whether barbed wire, tensile cable or post & rail.
While most riding establishments had a pasture management plan, its production was generally to satisfy the regulations rather than meet a real need. Additionally, most schools do not record field maintenance – which is ongoing all the time. The view is that the regulations drive bureaucracy rather than deliver genuine benefit.
The next meeting will be published on FB and the ABRS+ website.
The ABRS+ has met with the BEF, BHS, RDA and PC to establish a group to jointly represent the Industry during the DEFRA review. The first meeting will be held on Mon 6 Jun.