Diversification Series Part 3 – Horses
Posted on 7th July 2022 at 22:41
Even before the Covid Pandemic, levels of pet ownership have been on a constant rise in the UK. Along with that has been the growth in demand for a number of key services, most of which require facilities and space, both of which are in good supply in rural areas, especially agricultural enterprises, particularly those based near to villages or towns.
One large animal which is particularly relevant in rural areas, is the horse, since the majority of owners require grazing as well as stabling. There are currently approximately 847,000 horses in the UK, fuelling a massive £4.7bn equestrian industry. Whilst they require a certain degree of specialist knowledge, setting up facilities for horses is usually within the remit of most agricultural based enterprises.
Horses require space for grazing, handling and training and redundant farm property/land offers great opportunity for such an enterprise. The type and capacity of equestrian facilities you can offer, will depend on how much space you have. Collectively known as ‘Livery’ there are a variety of levels of facilities which can be offered, with an increasing level of investment but also potential income:
In its simplest form, you can offer grazing for owners to keep their horses on a DIY basis. This would require suitable established grassland (1 acre per horse is the minimum stocking density but will depend on your soil type and drainage. Fencing needs to be of suitable height, quality and type to meet the needs of the size and type of horse. It is very important that perimeter fences are particularly robust. It may be possible for some horses to share paddocks, but many owners require individual paddocks. You will need to consider the management of muck, which most establishments require owners to remove on a daily or weekly basis to prevent a build-up and weed control (weeds will often establish where horse muck is left, displacing grass).
Changing the use of land from Agricultural to Equestrian may require permission. Simply grazing horses does not, however as soon as any added handling/training is planned, it probably will require permission and therefore be subject to enforcement action if a complaint is made.
A further key facility is the provision of ample water troughs for each paddock. A good supply pipe can be used to supply individual troughs using ball-cock valves to ensure automatic filling.
Horses vary enormously in terms of their needs for shelter, however few domestic horses or ponies with active lives, will thrive in the UK climate without shelter from our extremes of wet, cold or heat. Good, thick high hedgerows and large trees offer significant levels of protection if they are able to shelter from the wind. Not all Field Shelters are subject to planning permission; generally, those which are clearly temporary structures ie moveable on skids can be placed on grassland. The most important consideration for siting shelters is direction of the wind (away from the prevailing W/SW winds) and drainage (driest part of the field, away from key field access points).
Grazing and Stabling - DIY
A level up from offering grazing is to offer grazing and stabling. Your property may already have stables or you may be looking to build new stable complexes or convert an existing agricultural barn into stables using a series of internal stable panels and gates so that horses can see one another and be stabled/handled together safely. Any change of use from agricultural to equestrian will require planning permission. In addition, using land for handling/training horses requires permission for change of use, even though pure grazing of horses does not.
It is very important that the stables you propose to offer for livery rent are safe and fit for purpose. In addition to a stable and water supply, owners will also require an area/facilities for storage of hay, bedding and the general kit, without fear of it being stolen. Particularly for those who work during the daytime, stables require lighting in winter months.
Added Value Livery Services
Particularly if horses are already your passion as a property owner, livery offers the opportunity for additional services for which you can charge:
Turn-out livery is when you offer to put the horse out and or bring it in on certain days.
Part-Livery involves looking after the horse more comprehensively on a day-to-day basis for an agreed number of days per week, charged at a daily rate. This will include turning horses out, bringing in at night, mucking stables out and preparing feed and bedding.
Full Livery is likely to cover 7 days a week and may include exercising the horse an agreed number of times per week. This is known as Ridden Full Livery.
These options can either be a part or full-time job for a property owner or the owner can employ staff to deliver the service to the clients, or a combination of both.
Professional Equestrian Facilities
Professional Equestrian Yards such as competition yards (specialising in dressage, show jumping, eventing and a range of other equestrian sports), polo yard, equine trainers/ agents, breeding/studs and racehorse training, could be another viable option for your rural land and property. If you have a yard and facilities which you are not using, you could look to rent it out to a professional. This may not require any planning permission, depending on whether you wish to increase the range of facilities to maximise the income potential. You could just offer your property for this or, if applicable to you, your services as well as your property as a place owners can bring their horses to train.
You might have a passion to open a riding school where budding young riders can come along either with their horse or keep your own on which to teach people to ride. Particularly post-covid, when so many riding schools had to close, there is a real lack of opportunity for parents to bring children to learn to ride. However, it is a significant investment in both facilities and horses.
Training facilities for which you will need to secure Planning Permission include:
• Outdoor Arenas
• Indoor or Semi-indoor Arenas
• Horse Walkers
• Cross Country Courses (where it is a change of use from agricultural or where you are opening it to the public/for competitions
• Hard Standing for parking horse lorries and trailers
• Access from public highways
At Landscope, we have a wide range of experience in helping secure planning permission for these types of project as well as acting as specialise equestrian and agricultural advisers to Local Planning Authorities, keeping us bang up to date on their Planning Policies and Practice. We have secured permission for facilities for a wide range of equestrian businesses, both with and without dwellings. If you’d like to get started and be sure you’re on the right tracks, please do get in touch. We’d be more than happy to have a chat about your exciting venture.
This blog series is designed to inspire rural businesses to undertake diversification projects to increase income streams and improve revenue. It’s important to remember that not all land and property is suitable for every method of diversification so be realistic before setting your heart on a project. Also, following your passions is more likely to result in long term success.
Make sure you look out for our next blog in the series, which will delve into the world of Pet Services.
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