Riding schools have told H&H they fear that extortionate costs could force centres — already grappling with hefty insurance premiums — out of business.
The British Horse Society (BHS) also confirmed that it had received comments from its approved schools on recent rate increases and those that have their rates reassessed.
Concerned readers contacted H&H, worried that Coltspring School of Riding, Herts, may shut due to a substantial hike in rates by Three Rivers District Council.
“Our rates have gone from £3,950 a year to £17,250 — backdated to July 2010,” said proprietor Chris Trigg.
“This is making it very, very difficult for me to keep going. Anyone who’s running a riding school does it for the love of it — not to become a millionaire.”
Mr Trigg was told that the amount payable on his indoor school would rise dramatically and that the rates he had been paying were lower than they should have been to start with.
A council spokesman said: “Mr Trigg may consider making an appeal. We have agreed for him to spread the payments to make them less onerous.”
Equestrian businesses are also warned to check that the rates they pay are correct, to ensure they are not faced with a massive backdated rise.
Julian Marczak of the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) said: “This case again points to the unreasonable pressures placed upon our industry.
“It is not the school’s fault that the original rating assessment was too low and yet the proprietor is expected to pay an extortionate amount to cover the increase which it is claimed is due.”
Mr Trigg, who has arranged to meet his MP, added: “We will do as much as possible to lower the rates — if we take the sides off the indoor school it will be cheaper. But the rising rates are killing centres.”
Mr Marczak said another ABRS member who wanted to build an indoor school was asked to pay £7,000 to process the application, with no guarantee of a successful outcome.
Tim Lord from the BHS-approved Berkshire Riding Centre said his year-on-year rate increase was 16%.
But he advised people to investigate further.
“In 1997 I thought my rates were too high, so checked what comparable businesses were paying. I found I had a case and my rates were almost halved.
“It is also worth checking that the data your council holds is correct. There can be discrepancies between their estimates and what you actually have.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (6 December 2012)