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2019 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

68 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.

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!

Previous Stories
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