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!!
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.
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. :)
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.
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.
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!