Does letting fields for horses create an agricultural tenancy?

Hamish Lean discusses the finer details of the Agricultural Holdings Acts as it relates to letting out fields for the use of horses. 

1 May 2019

I’m often asked by farmers who have let out fields for the use of horses whether or not they have accidentally created an agricultural tenancy in favour of their tenants. 

They are very relieved when I tell them that the answer is almost always no. 

The reason is to do with the definition of an agricultural holding in the Agricultural Holdings Acts. 

An agricultural holding is the aggregate of the agricultural land comprised in a lease. 

Agricultural land is defined as land used for agriculture for the purposes of a trade or business. 

Agriculture is defined as use of land for horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazing land, meadowland, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds. 

You might think that land that which is used for the breeding or grazing of horses might fall within the definition of agriculture. 

However, livestock is defined as including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land. 

As you can see, land that is let to someone who owns horses for their own leisure doesn’t fall within the necessary definitions. 

Likewise, even if somebody owns horses in the course of a business, perhaps as a stud or breeding establishment, riding school or for pony trekking, these uses also fall outside the necessary definitions.

However, if the horses were being kept for the production of horsemeat or for the use of their skins that would fall within the definition of agriculture.

Also, if a farmer is keeping horses because he is using them for ploughing or for general farm haulage that would fall within the definition of agriculture too. 

I can think of only one example in Scotland, to my knowledge, where this happens. 

Accordingly, in the most common situation in practice, letting out land to a neighbour who then keeps his or her children’s ponies on the land can never create an agricultural tenancy.