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Advice for Riding Schools in England | Covid 19 Spring Response

Covid Update, Step 4– 19 July

The latest government announcement sees the end of most restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic. This is great news for riding schools, livery yards, competition centres and horse owners. The BHS advice is to follow a cautious but sensible approach to the easing of restrictions and recommend the following guidance.

Covid-19 Risk Assessments
All centres are still required to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment for all activities.

Numbers at Events
There are no restrictions on the number of participants that can take part in a competition or activity.

Spectators at Events
There are no restrictions on the number of spectators that can attend a competition or activity, unless indicated in your own risk assessment. This means that riding schools can now allow parents and spectators to watch lessons.

Recording Attendees
Centres are no longer required to record details of participants, spectators or helpers. However, all attendees should be encouraged to “check in” with the NHS QR code to assist in tracing close contact in the event of a positive case.

Enhanced Cleaning Centres
should continue with enhanced cleaning procedures and ensure hand washing/hand sanitisation stations are available.

Face Masks
Although face masks are no longer mandatory, centres should consider their use to help keep employees, volunteers and participants safe. If you have any indoor areas such as clubhouses, classrooms etc. then facemasks should be encouraged. Centres may wish to make the wearing of facemasks mandatory in specific settings as indicated in the centre risk assessment.

Social Distancing
Centres can continue to encourage social distancing, especially in an indoor setting.


April 01 Update

We understand how frustrating the events of the past week have been for you all and how the uncertainty around the use of indoor schools has not helped with your plans to reopen your businesses from 29 March.

Behind the scenes we have been continuously consulting with the relevant Government departments, the BHC and the BEF to establish the clarity which we need for indoor arenas to be used within the terms of the Covid Regulations. The Cabinet Office, has taken the position of treating all sports in the same way, which as we know is illogical in respect to indoor buildings and this removes the exemptions we had all fought so hard to achieve.

Clearly there are some restrictions for indoor schools in place, however we can now see a path to these restrictions being lifted and there are a wide number of activities we can undertake in the days and weeks ahead.

As we move towards Steps 2 and 3 there are many positives for our sector which will hopefully support our return to near normal operation for the summer. Below we have added to the Cabinet Office Roadmap for equestrianism to highlight the activities which you can still offer. Please remember that all activities are subject to the necessary Covid risk assessments being in place and we always recommend that you check with your insurance provider or local authority for further clarity if required.

Please be assured, we are continuing to work hard to lobby Government to bring forward the dates we can use indoor arenas without restriction.

*The Cabinet Office text is in black

*The BHS guidance is in red text

Step 1

From 29 March

1. Outdoor riding arenas are permitted to open from 29 March. People can use these venues in a group of up to six people, with people from the same household or support bubble, or in a group of any size from up to two households.

2. From 29 March, formally organised outdoor sport, including outdoor riding lessons, training and competitions, are also permitted. Such organised activities can include a larger number of participants, provided that appropriate steps are taken to make them COVID-Secure in line with the law. At this stage, these gatherings must only include participants, not spectators or the parents of participating children.

  • Outdoor lessons for children and adults can take place in riding schools, livery yards and British Riding Clubs and there is no restriction on group sizes for lessons. For lead rein lessons there are no restrictions on the number of leaders/helpers permitted as these are considered to be part of the “work force”
  • Coaches can coach adults and children outdoors with no restriction on group size
  • Outdoor competitions can resume.
  • The use of indoor arenas is restricted to one adult
  • For competitions the “work force” is not counted when observing restrictions on numbers

3. Indoor riding arenas remain closed until Step 2 (no earlier than 12 April). A place is classed as indoors if it would be considered to be enclosed, or substantially enclosed, for the purposes of section 2 of the Health Act 2006(a), under the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006(b). The smoke-free regulations definition can be found here. In practice this means that we define indoors as a place that is considered to be enclosed, or substantially enclosed for the purpose of the smoke-free regulations. A structure would likely be outdoors if more than 50% of the area of its walls are open.

  • An Indoor arena which has a minimum of 50% of its walls which are open to the outside elements can be classed as an outdoor facility and can be used without restriction
  • There are two exemptions in the Regulations which permit Children’s lessons to take place indoors: Indoor sports facilities can be used for children who were under 18 on 31 August 2020 and indoor sports facilities can be used where doing so will allow parents to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical attention or attend a support group. Vulnerable children can already attend these settings regardless of personal circumstances.
  • Individual adults can use an indoor arena where they are the owner or loaner of the horse and the horse is being exercised as part of its daily care to meet the welfare needs of the horse. For safety reasons this ridden exercise can also be supervised

4. However, the closure of indoor arenas does not prevent access to indoor arenas for training or competition by elite sportspeople, for the purpose of providing veterinary services in relation to any animals at the riding centre, or for the care or exercise of any animal by its owner at the riding centre. Employees of the riding centre may continue to access indoor arenas, including to maintain the property and care for or exercise the animals located on site.

  • Horses can continue to be exercised in an indoor arena, individually by an adult, to provide the necessary care and exercise required by the horse
  • Children can ride in groups in indoor arenas

5. Horse hire to the general public for outdoor use can take place from 29 March, subject to social contact rules.

  • Riding schools can open to the public subject to the arena use restriction in point 2 above

6. Organised indoor horse riding for disabled people who are not elite sportspersons is permitted, where provided by a business, charity or public body and where the organiser takes the required precautions. The closure of indoor riding arenas does not prevent access to such venues for the purpose of fitness-related activity for persons with a disability.

  • Riding lessons and coaching can take place in an indoor school for disabled people


Step 2

No Earlier than 12 April

7. Use of outdoor arenas remains restricted to a group of up to six people, people from the same household or support bubble, or a group of any size from up to two households, unless as part of formally organised outdoor sports, subject to the conditions set out above.

  • All of the above in Step 1, and in addition:
  • Riding lessons, training and coaching are recognised as being formally organised which means that there is no restriction to group size, for adults and children.
  • Outdoor competitions can resume. The use of indoor arenas is restricted to one adult taking part in a competition for instance
  • For competitions the work force, including volunteers is not counted when observing restrictions on numbers

Indoor arenas are permitted to open for use as a single household or bubble indoors. Indoor activities such as group riding lessons that bring people together - even if they do not mix with other households - must not run until Step 3. Indoor activities are only permitted if there is an explicit exemption – relevant exemptions include activities that form part of the core curriculum of formal education or professional/work-related training/development, elite sports training or competition, or organised sports for children or for the disabled (with relevant gatherings permitted to include participants, not spectators or the parents of participating children).

  • Lessons for all children (under 18s), regardless of circumstance, can take place indoors in riding schools, livery yards and BRC, with no restriction on group size for lessons.
  • Coaches can coach children indoors with no restriction on group size for lessons
  • Individual adults can use an indoor arena where they are the owner or loaner of the horse and the horse is being exercised as part of its daily care to meet the welfare needs of the horse. For safety reasons this ridden exercise can also be supervised. Coaching on a one to one basis is also permitted
  • A single household or bubble can ride together indoors with a coach
  • Children’s (U18) competitions can take place indoors subject to gathering restrictions which disallow spectators of attendance by parents. There are no restrictions on numbers of stewards, judges etc. as these are considered to be part of the “workforce”

There is an exception in place which allows indoor schools and classrooms to be used for Education and Training and the following activities are permitted:

  • BHS Career Pathway, training and assessments
  • Coaching Certificates (formally UKCC)
  • Apprenticeships
  • UCAS points assessments
  • CPD including First Aid and Safeguarding
  • CPD for Accredited coaches
  • Coach training including Ride Safe, Pony Stars, Challenge Awards
  • Assessor training


Step 3 

No Earlier than 17 May

9. The intention at Step 3 (no earlier than 17th May) is that riding arenas must only be attended/used in line with the wider social contact limits at this stage - in a group of 6 people or 2 households indoors; or in a group of no more than 30 people outdoors, unless an exemption is in place.

Further details will follow, however the initial interpretation is that:

  • Organised outdoor sport can take place without restriction on numbers of participants
  • Organised indoor sport will be subject to restriction on numbers
  • Spectators can return to events within the restriction on numbers

See also:

Update for England from 29 March – Group Sizes

Sport England have confirmed that where outdoor sport is an organised activity, there are no limits on group sizes when outdoor sport can resume on 29 March. Organised outdoor sport and physical activity must be formally organised by a qualified instructor, club, national governing body, company or charity and follow sport specific guidance where appropriate. This means that there are no restrictions on group sizes for riding school lessons, BRC training sessions or coaching. The full Sport England FAQs can be found here:

Frequently asked questions on the national coronavirus restrictions | Sport England

Note 1. Out of School Settings

Where businesses have been listed as having to close in the National Lockdown measures they are unable to offer out of school provision. Riding Schools are listed as businesses which must remain closed until 29 March National lockdown: Stay at Home - GOV.UK (

The Covid 19 Response – Spring 2021 states that:

The government’s intention is then for out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers to be able offer provision as normal, to all children, from the start of the school summer term. This will be no earlier than 12 April, and will be confirmed as part of step 2 of the COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021.

Government Support for Businesses during the Lockdown in England

The Government have issued further details of the support which is available to businesses and individuals during the Lockdown in England. Details can be found here.


All advice and guidance is subject to change as and when government issue further details. This advice will be updated when further details are issued. Whilst this is the BEF and the BHS interpretation and advice we strongly recommend that you consult with both your insurance provider and local authority to help make the right decisions for your businesses and circumstances.


The BHS Helpline

The BHS Welfare Helpline is here to offer you advice and support with any questions or concerns you may have.

We are here for all our members and supporters and we have extended our working hours to provide a Coronavirus Helpline during these difficult times to help answer your additional queries relating to Coronavirus lockdown.

 Call us on 02476 840517

If you are an APC please call 02476 840565 or an Approved Centre please call 02476 840509




Please read our information and advice for horse owners and business owners during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak


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