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Fire safety for equestrian yards and stables

Equestrian yards and stables, often operated as businesses, and they offer a wide range of equine services, including livery yards, riding schools, horse training and breeding and equine therapy. However, many owners and managers of these equestrian facilities might not recognise the significant fire risks present, due to a number of potential fuel and ignition sources. These risks can stem from several causes, such as electrical faults, the ignition of flammable materials like hay and even arson. In January 2024, a tragic stable fire resulted in the deaths of five horses in an incident at a yard in Tyne and Wear, and highlighted the need for heightened awareness and preventive measures in these settings. The consequences of a fire in such equestrian yards and stables can be catastrophic, resulting in the loss of animals, risk to people and the destruction of equipment and yard buildings, although most fires are preventable.

This article aims to provide information to help you understand fire safety for equestrian yards and stables. It also details the steps required to conduct a fire risk assessment, how fire can be prevented and explains your legal obligations regarding fire safety.

Legal compliance for fire safety for equestrian yards and stables

Equestrian businesses are required to comply with fire safety legislation. In England and Wales, this is governed by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which applies to all non-domestic premises, including workplaces, as well as all animal premises. Under this legislation, business owners responsible for fire safety in equestrian yards and stables are obligated to conduct a fire risk assessment. If the setting employs five or more people, the law requires that this risk assessment be formally documented. The aim of a risk assessment is to put a plan in place for fire safety in equestrian yards and stables and ensure all occupants (people and animals) are safe while minimising the potential for fire-related damage.

The fire risk assessment and the implementation of subsequent fire safety measures, as required by the Fire Safety Order, are the responsibility of a designated ‘responsible person’. This individual could be the owner, a resident of the equestrian centre or an employee. The ‘responsible person’ must have the necessary training or experience to effectively implement these measures. The size and complexity of the premises will determine the number of  ‘responsible persons’ needed to ensure compliance.

Conducting a risk assessment for fire safety for equestrian yards and stables

Identify fire hazards: As part of the risk assessment, you must locate potential sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen that could contribute to a fire. These may include electrical equipment, heating appliances, hot works (used when fitting horseshoes), stored fuels and chemicals and combustible materials like hay, straw, muck heaps and bedding.

Image of a stable with lots of hay.

Identify who is at risk in the event of a fire in your fire risk assessment: This probably includes horses, employees, visitors and any nearby residents. Special consideration should be given to those who may have difficulty evacuating quickly, such as individuals with disabilities.

Evaluate risks and implement controls: Assess the likelihood and potential impact of identified hazards, then implement measures to reduce or eliminate these risks. We will look at this in more detail later in the article.

Review and updates of the fire risk assessment:
You need to periodically revisit the assessment and make updates as needed.

Strategies you can use to reduce or eliminate these fire safety risks

Emergency evacuation plans

  • Develop and regularly review an emergency evacuation plan tailored to the layout of the equestrian yard. This plan should include safe assembly points and routes of escape for both humans and horses, with special consideration given to a horse’s specific behaviour and needs.
  • Conduct evacuation drills with staff and volunteers to ensure everyone is familiar with escape routes and procedures.
  • Develop clear signs to ensure that the evacuation routes are marked.  Fire exits should also be signed and there should be visible fire points in safe, accessible areas, such as the car park.Sign with emergency evacuation procedures.

Access for emergency vehicles:

Ensure the entrance of the yard is clearly marked and not blocked from the main road to guide emergency services promptly to the yard, especially if you are in a remote place.

Image of an entrance to a stables

Proper storage of flammable materials

  • Store flammable materials such as hay, straw and bedding away from main buildings and especially away from areas with electrical equipment or where hot work, such as a farrier’s work takes place. Also, store combustible materials such petrol away from where horses are kept. Hay is best kept in well-ventilated, dry storage areas.
  • Use appropriate containers and storage facilities for fuels, solvents and other chemicals, following manufacturer guidelines and legal requirements.

Maintain cleanliness

Ensure the yard remains clean and tidy by immediately clearing away any hay or straw and discarding waste in allocated containers. Also, ensure there is minimal dust and cobwebs near flammable items.

Somebody cleaning a stable

Create a fire safety map for your equestrian yard

This map should show the layout of your yard and clearly indicate potential fire hazards such as gas and electrical points and storage locations of combustible materials like hay, bedding and muck heaps. Also on the map, you will need to include the placement of fire extinguishers and water hoses and mark up designated evacuation routes and safe areas for both people and horses.

No smoking policy:

  • Implement and strictly enforce a no-smoking rule throughout the yard.
  • If a designated smoking area is needed, it should be at a safe distance from the yard, away from flammable materials and a bin should be provided for cigarette butts.No smoking sign

Installing fire detection systems and fire safety equipment

  • Install smoke alarms in all critical areas, including stables, barns and storage areas, to ensure early detection of fires. Remote sounders should be used so horses are not distressed.
  • You need to use the appropriate types of fire extinguishers, ensuring they are accessible and that staff are trained in their use. They also need to be inspected regularly so that they are in good working order. It’s important to understand which fire extinguishers are suitable for different types of fires. If straw, bedding and hay are set alight then the use of water extinguishers are ideal. Fires involving electrical items require a non-water-based fire extinguisher. Carbon Dioxide extinguishers, while effective, can be noisy upon activation and may startle horses. Dry powder extinguishers are slightly less noisy but release a substantial amount of white powder, which can reduce visibility and linger in the air. For fires involving flammable liquids, foam extinguishers are recommended due to their ability to smother flames. In cases where gases are involved, dry powder extinguishers are more suitable due to their versatility in tackling flammable liquids and gases. The below image displays which colour fire extinguishers should be used for different types of materials.
  • Consider installing sprinkler systems in high-risk areas to automatically suppress fires before they can spread.
    An image showing the different types of colour coded extinguishers and what category of fires each one extinguishes.

Training and awareness

Your fire risk assessment will identify the type of training needed, for who and the frequency of training. Training may include:

  • Regular training sessions for all staff on fire safety procedures, including the evacuation of animals.
  • Specific training for the ‘responsible person/s’, including the use of fire extinguishers and taking charge of evacuation procedures.

Electrical safety

  • Ensure that a qualified electrician conducts annual checks and tests on all electrical equipment, and that appliances undergo PAT (Portable Appliance Testing).
  • It’s important to use all electrical items correctly and keep them well-maintained.


In summary, it is important to be aware of fire safety and fire hazards in equestrian yards and stables, as fire can cause devastating damage. Through careful planning and proactive fire safety management, the risk of a fire breaking out can be significantly minimised and responding to a fire quickly, can mean an emergency can be avoided.  It is a legal duty to carry out a fire risk assessment  and this may involve specific considerations such as ensuring that there are suitable means for releasing animals quickly, reducing the risk of fire from equipment and materials used within the premises and ensuring that staff are trained in emergency procedures and equipment.

Further information

The government has produced a guide entitled ‘Fire safety risk assessment: animal premises and stables’. It has been created for employers, managers, occupiers and owners of animal premises and stables. It elaborates on what you have to do to comply with fire safety law, carry out a fire risk assessment and identify fire precautions you need to have in place.

Interested in our fire safety training?

Whether you’re an owner of an equestrian facility, staff member or stable manager, enhancing your knowledge on fire safety is crucial. Our comprehensive fire safety training courses cover all aspects of fire safety management, from identifying potential fire hazards to implementing effective evacuation procedures, and how to respond in an emergency situation and offer advice on conducting fire risk assessments and employing fire prevention strategies.

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