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