Plenty of private manèges are hired out on a casual basis, with users leaving a fiver in a box at the gate. It’s just a bit of extra cash, and the idea of licences and insurance is off the radar. But is that wise?

Lottie Goldstone, equine law specialist at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, says: “Anyone can hire out their school, but it is rife with litigious risk.”

Cover all eventualities
Whether on a large or small scale, Lottie strongly advises having a licence in place for each user that covers all eventualities.

“This protects the landlord and provides the user with an element of security, as well as ensuring the school is in a suitable state,” she says.

“The licence would specify the parties, payment procedure, booking criteria, hours of usage, damage to school or jumps and exclusion of the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

“There is also a common law duty of care, which needs to be addressed.”

Lottie recommends using a solicitor to draft the licence and agreeing a fee upfront.

“Stay clear of online templates, as these are too general to give the landlord any protection,” she says. “Once the licence is drafted, you can insert a new name on each licence per user.

“I would suggest emailing it to the new user for them to read through, sign and bring with them the first time. Then they would be free to use the school under the agreed terms without signing each time. The landlord should keep a copy — a scan is fine.”

Protect yourself
Lottie says insurance is essential to protect the landlord in the case of any negligence claims. Anyone teaching in the school should also have their own insurance.

Anna Goodley, account executive at Lycetts insurance broker, emphasises that even between friends, appropriate cover should be in place.

“If a pothole in the school causes your friend to fall and become paralysed, they could sue you for damages,” she said.

“And when someone makes a spurious claim, you need the financial protection to defend yourself.”

Anna advises first approaching your household insurer.

“They may extend to cover for ‘hiring the school for reward’ at no extra cost if it’s just a fiver here and there,” she says.

“If it’s on a bigger scale, you would need a stand-alone policy — which I would estimate at around £250 per year.”

Owners need to assess whether they would be earning enough to justify the cost of insurance and licensing.

But if the school is being used more than twice a week at £5 a time, you could start to make a profit. Just bear in mind the extra labour and cost entailed in maintenance due to increased usage.

This all assumes that you’re looking to hire out the school on a small scale, but if it’s on a more serious basis — for competitions or as a riding school — then you need to discuss with your local authority.

You should also check that your original planning approval permits the commercial use you require.

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This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (17 October 2013)