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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Sarasota Manatee Association For Riding Therapy Inc

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Developmentally Disabled Centers, Disabilities, Equestrian, Human Services, Special Olympics, Sports

Mission: Enriching the lives of people with special needs through therapeutic horse-related programs. “Empowering lives through the healing power of horses.”

Results: The impact that SMART has on the community is threefold: 1. The therapeutic services we provide at SMART are important, meaningful and effective. In this safe and nurturing environment, the movement of the horse and the connection to the horse are used to heal the body, mind and spirit of every SMART Rider...and we get results. We have fine-tuned our method of evaluating the progress of our participants and success of our program by transitioning to the “Results First” method of tracking outcomes. This new focus ensures that each participant meets individualized, result-based goals set by the instructors and derived from within one of the four main areas: social, behavioral, physical, and speech/language improvements that increase basic living skills and lead to a high level of thriving. 2. At SMART, a beautiful and comfortable place for a weekly hour of respite is provided to family members during lessons. Knowing that their loved one is safe and receiving competent care, knowledgeable instruction and nurturing attention, the parent or caregiver is free to relax and rest, network with other parents, or spend some quality time with their other children. 3. The positive effects of our program are also experienced by dozens of young people who become SMART Volunteers. These teenagers and college students are the future leaders of our community. At SMART they find a safe and engaging place to grow and become responsible, caring, empathetic, accepting, aware and contributing members of our community. It is because of ALL of these positive effects, impacting many lives, that it is more important than ever that SMART continues to receive the community support and funding needed to carry on its' mission.

Target demographics: Children and adults with challenges and disabilities.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 643 children and adults.

Geographic areas served: Manatee and Sarasota Counties in Florida

Programs: Therapeutic horseback riding, carriage driving and equine assisted activities. Through respectful partnerships with our horses, we create an environment that promotes a life of inclusion, respect, growth and independence.

Community Stories

84 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

3 lfriendly

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at SMART for almost 20 years. I've been a side-walker, a horse leader, and a "spotter" for adult programs, for children's programs and for their carriage driving program. When I was unable to help physically because of a hip-replacement, I worked in their office. I can't imagine a more satisfying place to volunteer. The instructors and my fellow volunteers are so knowledgeable and dedicated. The horses, chosen very carefully, seem to know how important their job is. And the clients put a smile on my face every week. I love to see the improvements -- physical, mental and emotional -- from week to week. SMART makes me feel very valued, but I am more than grateful to them for allowing me to participate in the wonderful work they do.

Donor

Rating: 5

Among the many worthy nonprofits, SMART is exceptional. One visit to the facility, many years ago, and I was hooked. The looks of joy and accomplishment on the riders’ faces bring tears to your eyes. I have been a financial supporter ever since.
Andy Frank

Bob L.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our special needs son has been riding with SMART for almost 30 years now and we don't know what we would do if he didn't have the loving, caring professional instructors and lessons at SMART to look forward to every week. In addition to being mentally handicapped he suffers from mental illness so being able to attend SMART every week has brought stability and joy into his life. As parents we are extremely grateful for SMART and the wonderful instructors and volunteers.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Incredible staff and compassionate for what they do. Blessed to have discovered them through a friend and get to know them this summer. Doing incredible work for humanity and the horses.

Cinda C.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our precious Lydia has loved SMART from her first day with the horses. My husband and I have appreciated seeing how tall and proud she sits as she increases her strength and learns to follow directions for guiding and caring for the horses. The amazing team has made this opportunity possible for her by supporting her and helping her engage and learn every step of the way. Thank you for all you do!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My grandson has been a rider for several years. His weekly class is the highlight of his week. The volunteers are wonderful people and Miss Sam is a phenomenal instructor. Every child is treated with respect and encouraged to work according to his or her abilities. In addition to riding, the students learn how to treat the horses, support them, and care for them. SMART is a wonderful place!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We are volunteers but SMART has been such a wonderful therapeutic experience for my daughter and has really gotten her out of her shell. The horses are well taken care of and the place is lovely. Staff and Volunteers are great, I highly recommend.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Sam and the horses at SMART helped me gain self-confidence, self discipline and trust. No words can explain the experience and the impact it made on my journey. Its something special I feel every time I spend time there. Nothing in this world can compare to.

Client Served

Rating: 5

SMART has been the most amazing blessing for our daughter! I’m not sure where we would be without the support and love the program has provided her the last 3 years. Truly amazing people there and, of course, amazing horses! We love SMART!!!

Donor

Rating: 5

My husband and I moved to Manatee County from New Jersey over 11 years ago. A few years before we moved here full time, we lost our handicapped son, Mike. One of Mike's favorite activities at his North Jersey disability program was his twice yearly horseback riding. Once we were settled in here in Manatee County, we began the search for a place to provide a scholarship in memory of Mike. We visited a few locations but were extremely impressed with SMART. The staff, volunteers and all the horses are always so welcoming every time we stop by to say hello! I am about to write our annual scholarship check so another student, like our Mike, can enjoy this activity with a smile on their faces.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has been riding for years at SMART and he absolutely loves it! We are working on increasing his lessons because he misses it when he only does it once a week.
We are so grateful for the staff and volunteers!

lovemycrazylife

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter was a client at SMART for several years. She as always loved animals, but was especially interested in horses. When she first started, she was quiet, had a speech impairment and low muscle tone. Through this program, working with amazing horses and volunteers, she worked on her speech, balance, increased muscle tone and gained confidence that carried over into everyday life. She had traditional therapy and hated it. This program allowed her to participate and compete in Special Olympics and enjoy something that was truly unique with out being singled out as 'different'. For her, it was fun. As a mom, it gave me a chance to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while talking to other parents in similar situations, watch my daughter do something she loved. I treasure the memories we have of the time spent at SMART....

Previous Stories
1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has been riding for eight years at SMART...its her favorite day of the week...even has she heads into her late teens, she still looks forward to each session. I have seen my daughter grow from a shy, timid little girl with limited vocal ability, to a beautiful, confident, young woman. the volunteers are kind and really love being with the clients they serve. The horses are fantastic. Seeing the connection between horse and rider is a beautiful and miraculous thing. I cant thank all those enough for taking my child on this journey...

Comments ( 1 )

profile

SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Thank YOU for this beautiful review!!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

SMART is a wondeful group helping the community members who need them, along with the horses who help the riders and visitors heal. I love this group,they have done so much for our friends, and I am proud to help them communicate all they do to others who need them!

Brittany H.6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SMART Riders is one of the most special places I have ever worked at or been to. Their commitment to horse care and specialized equine therapy geared specifically to their students' needs is UNPARALLELED.

Martine M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a volunteer at Smart I get to see these children respond and grow stronger with the classes they are given. Also you see the best side of their personalities come out caring for the horses. Their anger and depression goes away and smiles come out! Fantastic work Smart Farm!

Jody Lynn M.

Donor

Rating: 5

Fifteen years ago, I moved from a small farm in Georgia to Sarasota, where I couldn't afford to own my own farm. After boarding for a couple years, I realized I could not keep it up and needed to find my beloved horse Magic a wonderful forever home. I went out to SMART and loved what I saw. So I talked up my horse's excellent characteristics. He was - is - a kind gentleman, well-mannered and comfortable to ride. When the staff became excited to meet him, I had to add the kicker - Oh, yeah. He's also blind, as in he has no eyes.

That's Magic. He has become a well-loved horse at SMART and a reminder to all that different abilities need not keep anyone from a complete, talented, and satisfying life. Magic has worked with the children, with reading groups, and with veterans. He teaches everyone that with patience and kindness, you can overcome all kinds of obstacles. He was my competition horse in event, then dressage, for eight years. Now he's a hero at SMART.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

SMART is like heaven on Earth. Amazing people and horses. They change lives one day at a time...

1 Missysails

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'll join in the praise for SMART! I started volunteering here in 2012, right after retiring and moving to Florida -- and I've found an avocation that is much more rewarding than my forty-two years of work.
Whether I'm asked to help out in the barns, groom the horses, side walk, and occasionally lead during classes the rewards for me are immeasurable. I find a sense of calmness, the reward of giving to others and knowing that they are benefiting from their experience, and a family of fellow volunteers without whom my life would be empty.
I've cried with happiness when a child succeeds, I've shared their enthusiasm for learning and conquering new tasks, and I've laughed with their joyful smiles.
SMART is a community that gives to a larger community and thus makes a difference in the world

Previous Stories
2

Donor

Rating: 5

When I learned about SMART in 2012, I thought I would become casually involved with this organization -- a good thing to do in retirement. Now, five years later I'm a dedicated donor helping to support the marvelous difference SMART makes in so many lives. I know that my contributions are supporting the programs at SMART -- making it possible to reach more people every year. And, I know that SMART spends much less than most nonprofits on administration -- making sure that over 95% of every dollar goes to the programs.

I am also a passionate volunteer who can see the changes in individuals after even a couple of lessons -- and as the years go by the significant differences in their physical, emotional, and verbal abilities. I believe that I get as much from SMART -- perhaps more -- than I have from any other activity in my experience.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We found out about this amazing organization about 12 years ago... We were still working full time, but tried to support them in every way ... after we both retired, we have found a “home away from home” ! What this organization does and brings to our community is something that in 66 years of my life, I have NEVER seen, felt and loved so much... To everyone in our community, PLEASE take 3-5 minutes to look at the website... SMARTRIDERS.org

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering at this exceptional organization four years ago. I never expected to love it as much as I do. Working one on one with the participants has changed my life for the better! I love the relationships that you build with them as well as the other volunteers! Ms. Sam, the head instructor, and barn manager is the best person in the entire world! She has been so encouraging with my passions and goals and is constantly pushing me to be the best person I can be! SMART has been my rock, my happy place, for several years and I will forever be grateful!

2 rspringstead

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization is the best! I have been volunteering there for a few years now and I have loved every minute I got to spend there and continue to spend. The impact that we made as volunteers and the organization made was so amazing to see every week. I am so thankful I got to be a part of the good that this organization does! I have loved every moment!

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1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love volunteering at SMART! SMART is the best! The atomsphere is the best and I love working with everyone there! For the past two years every Saturday is an important day to me thanks to SMART!

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

SMART is an incredible place with people that are connected and passionate about their purpose. I have watched them dip into Childrens hearts and move defensive blocks away to gain trust, engagement and happiness that surpass other methods of intervention. They are incredible!

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Our organization has partnered with the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy for the past two years. SMART offers invaluable services to our families with children grieving the death of a parent or sibling. SMART volunteers are well trained and extremely cognizant to the needs of the horses and people. The farm is a beautiful space to be in nature and promote healing and connection with our kiddos. Horses have an amazing ability to connect with humans.

3 lfriendly

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering at SMART for almost 20 years. I've been a side-walker, a horse leader, and a "spotter" for adult programs, for children's programs and for their carriage driving program. When I was unable to help physically because of a hip-replacement, I worked in their office. I can't imagine a more satisfying place to volunteer. The instructors and my fellow volunteers are so knowledgeable and dedicated. The horses, chosen very carefully, seem to know how important their job is. And the clients put a smile on my face every week. I love to see the improvements -- physical, mental and emotional -- from week to week. SMART makes me feel very valued, but I am more than grateful to them for allowing me to participate in the wonderful work they do.

Previous Stories
5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer at SMART for more than 10 years. Watching the growth and change in the clients, both children and adults, makes being there much more than just worthwhile. The volunteer training is excellent, the instructors are highly qualified, and, of course, the carefully selected and well-trained horses are truly amazing. SMART also goes out if its way to make the volunteers feel valued and appreciated. SMART is a truly wonderful organization.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is such a wonderful nonprofit that I’ve volunteered with for six years now. It’s my go-to place when I need to lift my heart and clear my head. I’ve seen so many great moments while volunteering and it’s made me a firm believer in the therapeutic benefits of equine interaction. Breakthroughs, small and huge are equally touching and significant and I feel honored to have been a part of some of these moments. It’s been a highly personal journey and I’m grateful to have this organization in my life. Truly love this place !

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer at SMART for 5 years. The dedication, support and love that is shown to our riders, horses, and others is beyond measure! Watching our students grow in their confidence and physical abilities is remarkable! Being a volunteer at SMART is one of the most rewarding experience I’ve had!

Previous Stories
4

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I've been volunteering at Sarasota Manatee association for riding therapy almost 3 years. The people that dedicate their time to SMART truly are the best! The programs they offer are extremely helpful for both adults and children.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Nate has been riding at SMART since he was 5? He will be 15 this September. SMART has been a constant source of growth, stimulation, challenge, accomplishment, progress and achievement for my son. Nate has been diagnosed with Autism, Severe Apraxia and Down syndrome. Samantha “Sam” has been a strong influence upon Nate to push and challenge him to the next level at each session. The volunteers are excellent. I always know that Nate is safe and in professional care.

Thank you, SMART, thank you, Buddy, Nate’s current horse! Thank you to the board and staff and especially to all who volunteer and support this fantastic organization financially.

3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a volunteer, donor and friend of SMART, I can say that without a doubt this program has a major impact on the lives of not only its participants--but also on the families, volunteers, supporters and horses! There is a tangible feeling of love, respect and empathy that floats around this beautiful, little horse farm. And the program results are obvious! I also appreciate the fact that all of the horses that are partners in the SMART programs are treated with such kindness, love and respect--and are provided forever homes. This is a wonderful lesson in the importance of love, commitment and responsibility---which is so very important, especially these days. SMART's "mission in action" is a Win-Win-Win for all involved--and it has always been a joy to support.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is on the autism spectrum and his school planned a trip to Sarasota Manatee Assoc. for Riding therapy and he had a great time riding and learning to care for the horses - I highly recommend this organization

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

SMART is a wonderful organization dedicated to helping different individuals with special needs. They offer so many diverse programs that touch so many lives in our community. I had the opportunity to create a painting that was dedicated to their Warriors in Transition program. I attended their annual Mint Juleps and Roses event last year and had a great time. SMART does a lot of wonderful work and they have dedicated staff members and super volunteers. It is a beautiful place!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

SMART is a great place to volunteer. The staff is patient and teaches you what you need to know. It's a great environment, not only the grounds, but the people are so nice. I really enjoy being around the horses and helping out when I can. There is something for everyone at SMART. Whether you are a teen or an adult. You will find your special place at SMART.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began my relationship with Sarasota-Manatee Association For Riding Therapy over a year ago. Brandi, Dana and Sam welcomed me with open arms as I was completing a field experience. From there I decided to become a volunteer at SMART because of the kindness, care, patience and love I experienced and saw expressed toward everyone. I see volunteers, staff, participants of all ages and horses being completely excepted where they are, yet challenged to grow and become their own best potential. What a great place to be who I am.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started volunteering at SMART four years ago. Everyone was so welcoming and excited to have new volunteers. I had never been around horses before so I was very nervous. The SMART family made me feel safe and taught me everything I needed to know. At SMART everyone is always so thankful and upbeat. Over the years I have become very close with the barn manager and instructor, Ms. Sam. Ms. Sam is an amazing person, always so patient and willing to teach people new things. She has taught me so much about horses and about people. Ms. Sam is someone that I look up to and think very highly of. As a person that struggles with anxiety it is hard to go out and do somethings, but never at SMART. SMART is a judge free environment. The people and even the horses at SMART help you through anything. Everyone always forms special relationships with the horses. But at SMART there is something else that helps you through things, the sensory garden. The sensory garden is a place you can decompress and enjoy the butterflies all around you and look out into the paddocks and see Salsa and Gracie grazing on a warm summer day.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

They just don't teach your child to ride horses. For us it has helped our child (autistic) develop awareness of his surroundings, sharing in caring for horses, working with and communicating with wonderful volunteers. Did I mention having fun as well!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've had the honor to volunteer with SMART through the Warriors in Transition program. The environment and staff add to the calm and relaxation veterans feel when they attend the sessions. This is by far the best non-profit in the local area. Brandi, Dana, and Sam are the best at what they do. I love volunteering here! Everyone should support this organization. You will appreciate the beauty of the horses, the stillness of the environment, and help veterans, children and those with disabilities. Love this place! (Love to Sterling too)!


Lisa Reese

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This is a tremendous non-profit! As a teacher, we take a field trip to this facility every year. The people are welcoming and the information they offer is well-delivered and perfectly tailored to my 4th grade students. The horses they have and the therapies they offer come together like the name of their most famous (blind!) horse: it is MAGIC!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

August 2018

My Pre-K class had the honor to participate in a real-world experience in spring of 2018 at SMART Farm in Bradenton, FL The children had the most amazing hands-on approach to learning with beautiful horses and volunteers that represented this outstanding organization. The four and five year’s olds groomed and brushed these brilliant horses and even cleaned the mud from their horseshoes. We toured the grounds and walked in the stables as we viewed and learned each horses name. Instantly the children felt connected and comfortable with their surroundings.

With assistance, each child walked along the side of a horse and held onto the reins as they led the horse through an obstacle course. Our class brought the horses fresh carrots to enjoy. We held the large tin bowls filled with carrots as the horses happily crunched with their big strong teeth. I think our new four legged friends were even smiling at us while they quickly finished their treat.

For days and even weeks the children relived their experience they had at SMART Farm. Our class created a memory photo book and who ever came to visit they were invited to sit down and hear all about our field trip to SMART Farm.

Thank you for positively influencing our young minds in Pre-Kindergarten at Out-0f-Door Academy.

Serena Robins
Pre-Kindergarten Teacher
Out-of-Door Academy
Siesta Key, FL

1 Lindsey M.2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The team at SMART is FAB!!! They go the extra mile in every area and are all very kind, patient, and attention driven! They are all passionate about the reason they are at SMART and it truly is an excellent program! Our family highly recommends SMART to any family with a child who has the simplest needs to the most advanced needs!!!

2 ozpawsheal

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Oz and I attend the Warrior's In Transition program at SMART. Oz is a pet therapy dog, but what really makes him special is that he is a rescue dog with a back leg amputation. Veterans are really drawn to him and immediately start to relax while they visit with him. This helps them get even more from the wonderful equine therapy program they are their to attend. I am so thankful for what SMART does for our veterans AND appreciate they were so open minded to us joining them. We (Paws and Warriors) have also helped several of these veterans we have met adopt rescue dogs themselves as companion, emotional support or potential service dogs!

Previous Stories
8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My pet therapy dog Oz and I volunteer with SMART for their Warriors In Transition program helping Veterans and active military with PTSD and TBI. I am a volunteer and donor to SMART because they offer so many great programs that support our community. SMART is also helping make it possible for me to do more to help Veterans locally instead of outside of our county at the VA. SMART not only provides riding therapy that heals individuals, they provide our citizens of all age levels and demographics the opportunity to volunteer and make a difference in the lives of others.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From the first day that I showed up as a volunteer to help clean up after the hurricane I knew this was the place I was meant to be a part of. The staff and other volunteers welcome you and make you feel like part of a family. The care that they show for the horses, the volunteers and especially the people that come to ride and learn is wonderful. I look forward to spending many years working beside these dedicated people and hope to make a difference in peoples lives. I thank them for the wonderful atmosphere that they provide.

Sue Collaud

1 Corbin C.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My family and I toured SMART. WOW!!! What a beautiful setting and so very well maintained. I can't say enough good things about the staff. I was taken on a small tour by Miss Brandi.
She gave us tons of info about every little area of the farm, from horses names, what they eat, where they stay and can't say enough how sweet their turtle Toodles is.

One thing added to this review.. I am very proud of my 14 year son has been and will continue to volunteer for the SMART org. He loves it there and will be a part of his life for a while. :)

3 S Kristen H.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am grateful every single day that SMART came into my family's lives. The positive changes that have occurred and continue to occur in our lives many are a direct result of the decision that was made years ago to see just what SMART was about. The difference between that family and the family we are today is night and day
Every person, horse, volunteer, student, staff that have crossed our paths have made a positive effect in our lives. Not only has my nephew grown leaps and bounds with the support of the wonderful program so has the whole family. Thank you SMART from the bottom of our hearts. For making my family happy, inspired, and so very proud of being a part of the SMART family!!

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Warriors in Transition is an equine facilitated learning workshop created to support combat veterans and their caregivers struggling to cope with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries. First introduced in 2009, the program has been conducted in Arizona, Hawaii, California, Florida, Montana, Missouri and Connecticut, but since 2014, it has called SMART home.

Having had the opportunity to conduct this workshop throughout the country at a variety of barns and facilities, SMART is without a doubt the finest organization we've worked with over the years. Much of the contributing value of the workshop is the setting, and SMART provides a pristine environment for conducting the program. It is the unique combination of impeccably trained volunteers, remarkably well cared for horses, and the feeling of service leadership that radiates from each and every staff member that sets SMART apart.

Without a doubt, SMART is the gold standard to which all therapeutic riding facilities should be held.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a Guardian ad Litem, I bring a young nine year old boy to SMART (Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy) each week during the school year for horse riding therapy. He spends an hour learning to ride, learning to communicate with the horse and also grooming and feeding the horses. He has been through a great deal in his short life. He was removed from his mom at a very young age, spent many years in different foster homes, adopted and then removed. Again he is in foster care and this time separated from his three brothers. During the past several months of attending SMART he has become a happy and confident child. He is learning that he can manage and care for a horse and I believe that transfers to him better managing and caring for himself. He is the biggest horse fan you'll ever meet. This opportunity is the biggest gift he has every received.

3

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My husband and I visited SMART to tour their facility. It is a beautiful place with caring and devoted staff members. The horses were well cared for and we witnessed many smiles that day from students during their lesson. A truly wonderful organization that helps so many.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is a beautiful place to volunteer. It is scenic and peaceful. The horses and other animals are given the best of care and the people are like a family. This SMART team of helping hands and loving hearts improves the lives of so many people...including mine. ~Linda Fargnoli

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My time volunteering with this organization has been amazing!! Everyone is so kind and compassionate. Watching the students grow is very rewarding!

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been a volunteer here for four years, starting in my freshman year in high school. I could not have had a better experience! EVERYONE HERE IS WONDERFUL!!! Kind, thoughtful, helpful, patient, and many more words can describe the people at SMART who have taken me from zero experience with riders and horses to the point where I am today. Originally, I volunteered to serve my school's requirement of 100 hours. With over 600 community service hours logged to date, (and many more to come) you can tell that SMART is a great place to be!

4 Heather281

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are relatively new to SMART after beginning only in April of 2016. My daughter has SPD, OCD/Anxiety, APD and Scoliosis. I was amazed that after her first lesson she didn't even look for me. The same child who walking to her lesson kept looking over her shoulder to be sure I was coming. Her anxiety is so much better. Also, to my surprise at her ortho checkup I was informed that her curve is correcting itself! We were told that she would most likely be braced this year as she was borderline, but now not needed! A benefit of riding that I did not know about! The staff and volunteers are amazing, so kind, caring and understanding. I cannot say enough about how WONDERFUL SMART is! ❤️

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My husband is a combat veteran. We go to the warriors in transition. The horses and the staff are wonderful. It was very difficult and still is transitioning out of the service for my husband. This program helped my husband to meet other service members who deal with same issues as military members. The horses gave him peace for the moment. God bless you for all you do. You are real angels in the time of need. Thank you.

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Great Organization. They show a lot of caring and compassion for what they do. They are very organized and well structured. I enjoyed doing grounds work for a school project. It was very rewarding. I definitely look forward to my next visit out there.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our special needs son has been receiving riding therapy from S.M.A.R.T. for over 28 years and has benefited immensely from this caring and professional organization and staff. During this time, S.M.A.R.T. has helped our son greatly improve his balance, build his self-confidence, learn to follow sequenced instructions, improve his attention capability, and allow him to have a better quality of life among several other positive benefits. He looks forward to being there every week and It is the one place he truly wants to be and get to on time! As parents, we honestly don't know what we would have done over these past years without S.M.A.R.T. since they have also helped our son achieve greater stability in his life in spite of having to deal with some emotional problems along with his developmental disabilities. Thank you S.M.A.R.T. and its wonderful Staff! The Lombardos

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has been riding at SMART for 4 years now. Although we are what Floridians call Snowbirds, she has been openly welcomed into the program by all staff and volunteers. (She is not new to therapeutic horseback riding. She has been riding in a program in PA, where we live 7 months of the year, since 1990.) The program at SMART is top notch, as are the instructors and volunteers. The horses are extremely well-trained and well-behaved. I have absolutely no concerns regarding my daughter's safety while riding, nor while interacting with her horse after her riding session is complete. She absolutely loves giving her horse his apple or carrots.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has been riding with SMART for 7 years! He is 12 years old and looks forward to riding "his horse" and seeing the volunteers and Sam, Samantha Toomey, an instructor and friend. Nate has Down syndrome, Autism and Severe Apraxia, yet Sam understands Nate's personality and how to bring out the best in him and she is so proud of how far Nate has come and shares that with me--which makes me very proud of the entire organization. SMART is a place that REALLY CARES about the riders! Nate has a lot of struggles in life, yet I see him learning and growing in his horsemanship and social skills. This year he began using the reins to guide the horse himself! Which is a huge accomplishment. Nate can be a handful, yet Gail and Sam never gave up on him and love him despite his occasional shenanigans. And that acceptance for who he is and acknowledgement of his great potential, has enabled him to blossom at SMART. The SMART program is perfect for a child who is non-verbal and has limited social skills, because your horse is there under you supporting you the entire time you are trying to get out those simple words "Walk On". And what a motivator to have that horse move forward and take you for a ride after 2 words are spoken. Being on the horse working on social skills, OT, and the physical therapy and receiving sensory input are invaluable. My son is very challenged by the activities done on the horse, yet the joy of riding and the really nice volunteers make the experience FUN not "therapy". Thank you SMART for being a huge part of our son's life and a happy place for him to continue to grow.

4

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are new to SMART, as our son just turned 5, but we have had our eye on them for a couple of years. Well worth the wait! Everyone is so loving and caring; truly committed to their riders, and horses. The barn is a tidy and organized, relaxing break from the busy weeks that so many of us parents spend devoted to our special needs kiddos. Our guy broke his leg just after the start of the season, but he hasn't been left out. Sam and Brandi have gone out of their way to ensure suitable activities, and encourage the bond between him and his horse. SMART (pun intended)! Cooper loves his barn time, his horse, and all his new friends at SMART. Having an extra-curricular activity that fits him is invaluable!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

We only found SMART a year ago and what an absolutely positive difference it has made in my daughter's life. As her mom, I wanted a place with people who would see her for the wonderful person she is.

I've watched her entire demeanor change into a more self-assured young woman whose face lights up when we get to the stable. Her verbal skills are improving, her balance and coordination are better, and she is much more self-assured with all the positive feedback that everyone gives to her. Everyone gives so unselfishly of their time and self and are so caring and respectful, supportive and patient. I cannot thank everyone enough for making this experience so wonderful.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son receives therapeutic services through SMART and I am forever grateful! Not only does he learn to ride his horse, he enjoys participating in barn activities. He takes great pride in what he accomplishes out at the farm! There have been times that he has had a rough day and taking him to visit the horses has helped turn things around for him. The volunteers are fabulous, kind and extremely patient with him

5 Megan93

Volunteer

Rating: 5

All I can say is wow. The SMART community is by far the best out there. The relationship between the instructors, volunteers, and all the families involved is just unparalleled. I am proud to say I have been a SMART volunteer for 2 and a half amazing years. I first became a volunteer to work with the horses but soon was building relationships with the people I was working with as well as the riders. LOVE my SMART family!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

If you have not been out to SMART, do yourself a favor and give them a call. It's a very special place that warms your heart the minute you drive through the gates. The Staff and Volunteers care deeply about the programs, participants and of course, the therapy horses. SMART is one of only 11 PATH Premier Accredited Centers in Florida and the only one in Manatee and Sarasota counties. These folks know what they're doing. You can see the impact on the young rider's faces as they beam atop one of the horses during a class or while feeding treats to their mount afterwards. It's a special place....I can't wait to get back out there!

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is a very precocious little boy who has Down syndrome, Autism, and Severe Apraxia. SMART is an important part of my son's life. He has been riding for 5 years and benefits physically, socially, and verbally. But more than therapy--my son feels loved, supported and encouraged! As a parent I appreciate the safety, highly trained volunteers, courses that challenge the riders, and the opportunity for my little boy to ride a horse, and be comfortable on a horse, and enjoy being a little boy! SMART puts a smile on our faces every time Nate rides. We so appreciate all the volunteers, horses, and staff. We can't thank SMART enough for being such a meaningful part of my son's life!

Previous Stories
6

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has been riding at SMART for 5 years and we absolutely LOVE this organization. Gail, Sam and all of the volunteers are committed, caring and professional. I never fear for my son's safety on or around the horses because all of the volunteers are well trained. The volunteers whisk my little guy off to the stable and he is completely supervised for at least an hour by loving people and gets to ride a horse and do all sorts of wonderful things on the horse that are lots of fun, but that also work on speech, language, physical skills, listening, stamina and behavior. My son has Down syndrome, Autism and Severe Apraxia and is truly a CHALLENGE as far as being all boy and stubborn. Yet, I always hear positive feedback from Sam about my son's ride. She tells me how "smart" he is--she does not underestimate him or his abilities, and thus she knows how to get him to ride his horse and have a successful hour! I so appreciate the love he feels from Gail, Sam and the volunteers who work with him. He has 3 people who walk with his horse each time. I am very thankful for all of the volunteers. I am also thankful for the new home for SMART which is really an oasis for parents/caregivers to just sit and find peace and rest amongst the beautiful stables, trees, ponds. It is very serene. I always encourage parents to contact SMART, the staff/volunteeers really do know what they are doing and are prepared to handle children with special needs, sensory issues, etc. SMART is a place where my child has found "success" and a sense of belonging--and every child with special needs will find that successful experience at SMART because the volunteers and staff will do what needs to be done to make it happen. SMART is a beautiful place with a beautiful spirit--thanks Gail, Sam, and everyone who makes this possible for my son!!!

Comments ( 1 )

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/19/2014

Wow! Thank you so very, very much for this wonderful review! We appreciate it very, very much.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Words cannot describe the joy I receive from volunteering for SMART. Between the beautiful well maintained property/barn, instructors, fellow volunteers, horses, students and parents/caregivers, it is just a wonderful place to spend an hour, or two or three or MORE! If I didn't have to work full-time, I'd be at SMART everyday (I'm serious)! SMART lives up to its mission on a daily basis, and that's very important. They don't just talk the talk, the walk the walk. The staff and instructors really make a volunteer feel like family from day one, and most importantly, make you feel appreciated. I highly recommend everyone get involved with volunteering for SMART. Your life will be fuller because of it, I promise. Go. Do it now.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Smart is such an incredible organization and I was so blessed to be able to volunteer there for 5 years. I learned so much about horses and people and got to be a part of an amazing group of people and animals. Everyone at smart is so caring and passionate about the work that they are doing! It was always such a joy to be able to form bonds with and interact with the riders each week. And to be able to watch them grow and change and learn! I will never forget my time spent at smart and the summers I spent as camp crew!! You all are doing such incredible things and touching so many lives. I am a different person today because of being able to volunteer for such an amazing organization!! I miss my smart family so much and hope to return to volunteering there sometime in the future! God is doing amazing things through all of you and the incredible things you are doing!! Love you all!!! -Dani Z

3 Michelle323

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Terrific Organization!!! Love it ! Love it! Love It !

5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This is one nonprofit which treats all their volunteers with respect and care. Every time I volunteer I hear at least one "Thank you!" before leaving the farm. .. most times it's two or three!

To know you are appreciated is important. To positively know you are making a huge difference in someones life by volunteering is beyond satisfying. This is a feeling I came to know each time I volunteer at SMART.

SMART offers therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving to children & adults with special needs. This is a volunteer intensive program and until last year, SMART was an all volunteer organization. Volunteers become friends and family to each other. There are volunteers who bring friends and family to volunteer along side with them. There are volunteers who work with horses and lessons and volunteers who have other talents. At times I cross between those boundaries because I know I'm making a difference when I do. So worth giving the time to this organization.




3 dlrs1962

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Began volunteering in November of 2007 just one evening a week. Initially, for me, it was all about getting a 'horse fix', but oh my, SMART quickly became so much more for me.

Each rider is special and the other volunteers are special as well. Other volunteers also seem to want to go that extra mile making it easy to work with others who have the same commitment this ever growing program. We all learn something every time we volunteer be it about a rider, the horses or even ourselves.

From the beginning I was thanked for my service each time I volunteered. Quickly I learned that SMART values it's volunteers, tries not to take them for granted by thanking them on a very regular basis. Being valued and being sincerely appreciated is important to us as humans.