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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: At SMART, we empower lives through the healing power of horses. Through therapeutic horse-related programs and activities, our SMART riders and their families' quality of life is significantly improved.

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

89 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.

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.




8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a new volunteer at SMART and I am enjoying the SMART program. It is not just being with the horses, which is amazing, it is how well thought out everything is. Nothing is left to chance and standards are high. This makes me, as a volunteer, feel safe and confident and I feel like I am learning something new each day. I love that. Thanks to everyone at SMART!

4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Thank goodness for SMART. It has provided my niece with one of the few resources that offer her the opportunity to exercise.

2 Rose B.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our daughter has been going to Smart for about five years. And in those five years we have seen so much development in her verbally and muscle tone. Every week she cannot wait to go and ride her horse it is complete joy to watch her and excitement when she accomplishes something new. The volunteers are the Best we have ever seen so much love in what they do and they take such amazing care of our children as if they were there own. The new farm that SMART ownes is breathtaking and all taken care of by volunteers! Simply amazing!!

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/18/2014

Thanks, Rose! We love you and your family, too!!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has been riding "her horses" with SMART for the past 9 years and each Saturday it is the thrill of her week. The benefits she receives from the horses and the truly special volunteers are beyond words. She has accomplished so much physically, emotionally and socially. The day we found SMART was one of the best days ever. The program meets all expectations. The horses are so kind and beautiful. The volunteers are unlike any people we have ever met. They are skilled, energetic and most importantly compassionate and loving to the riders. Thank you, SMART.

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/16/2014

Thank you so much for this beautiful review!!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am a parent of two former clients, two volunteers one of whom was a client and am a volunteer myself. We LOVE SMARTriders!!! We very much look forward to coming, seeing and being with the horses, the wonderful volunteers, and the peaceful and beautiful surroundings are awesome part of the therapy as well.

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/14/2014

Thanks for this great review and for being a part of our SMART family!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have 2 Autistic teenage boys that have ridden horses or drove horse carts for about 5 years. It is important Saturday activity in our family. My younger son looks forward to his time there all week. The organization is well managed with lots of volunteer staff and some paid staff. Everyone involved is on the same page. The organization purchased a permanent property with a house and stables. This organization definitely is doing the work of helping families with special needs children in this community. The organization is small enough that donations are used effectively and tangibly. This organization will be around for years to come.

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Thanks so much for this great review! We love those boys of yours!

1 Lindsay23

Donor

Rating: 5

I am both a donor and volunteer out at SMART and all I can say is that it is a pleasure to be a part of such a professional and effective organization. I have seen the incredible effects of this riding program on it's riders' self-esteem and physical abilities. I have seen the way that they glow when they hop up on a thousand + pound animal and the sense of accomplishment it brings as students meet with success in their riding. Both the horses and the volunteers are amazing not to mention the beautiful facilities. I get a little "therapy" myself every time I go out!

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Thank you so much, Lindsay!! You are a donor, a volunteer---and FAMILY!! We love you!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Ever since I began volunteering at SMART, I loved it. When I began looking for somewhere to give my time to, I was looking for a place to feel like I would actually make a difference and that is exactly what I found at SMART! I feel that I am both needed and useful and provide a service to those who need it. Every other volunteer that I have met there have a great heart and love what they do. The students who are in need of the services that SMART gives love all of the horses and the relationship that builds between the horses and the students is amazing. The horses are so intune to the riders and it fulfills both rider and horse. It give me great pleasure to be able to give some of my time to SMART.

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Thanks so much, Val. What a wonderful addition you have been to our SMART family. Your commitment is greatly appreciated!

1 Susan324

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have only been a SMART volunteer for 8 months, but have been made to feel so welcome and accepted as an integral part of the program. I have seen growth in the riders in just the short time I have been a volunteer. The riders and the horses have a definite connection and the riders gain balance, upper-body strength and self-confidence. All the staff and volunteers are dedicated to providing the best possible experience for the clients and the horses are the most gentle, best trained that I have ever worked with. SMART makes a difference!!

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Beautifully written---and thanks so much Sue! We are so glad you found us and greatly appreciate your dedication to our program and riders!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

S.M.A.R.T. is the fourth non profit dealing with equine therapy I have been involved with and I am so impressed by their organization. The people who give of their time as volunteers are wonderful, committed and generous. The programs are very well run, serving the varied needs of their clients in a kind and compassionate way. Sweet, kind horses in a beautiful peaceful setting along with the great staff make this a great non profit!

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Thanks a million! Your wonderful support means the world to us!!

Tamara19

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I loved it. I feel its a well needed and useful service to those who are special needs and even those who have been injured. The others that work there have a great heart and love what they do. To volunteer there you feel as though you are making a difference. The clients who are in need of the services love the horses and its amazing the relationship between the horses and the clients. ITs like the horses know for example if someone was blind, or in need of special care. The horses are so intune to the riders. Its a joy to watch and to be a part of, even if I can only help once in a while. I love it when I am able to.

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Thanks so much Tamara!! We have always appreciated your help, even it if was just once in a while. You are welcome anytime!! :) And yes, we do serve the elderly, as well. Our most senior participant was a 96 year old woman who was visually impaired and she learned to drive Carly! With that being said, about 80% of our participants are under 18.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It has been my privilege to work as a volunteer with SMART for about 3 years now. I had never worked with horses before and was fearful in the beginning, but it was something with which I wanted to challenge myself. I took on the assignment of scrubbing water buckets, water troughs and feed buckets so that I could become acquainted with the horses and lose my fear of being around them. That has given me the opportunity of observing the staff and their clients interacting with each other. I have been impressed with the level of caring and commitment that I've witnessed. I see the same level of commitment to the horses that are responsible for safely carrying the clients, their patient adaptation to the needs of the children and adults who ride them, and their response to the staff who love them. SMART has changed my life.

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

It has been OUR privilege to have you as part of our SMART family, Kay. A more kind an generous hearted person cannot be found. Thank YOU!!

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for over a year and a half now and all I can say is wow. Even as a volunteer SMART has changed my life. I have watched dozens of students learn, grow, and improve even from week to week. The SMART team of instructors and volunteers work together to create an unbeatable team of dedicated, caring, and hard working people that not only ensure the safety of each student but also go above and Beyond to get to know each child individually so we can better care for their needs. Now hold your horses because im not done yet. SMART horses the the best horses! They are so wonderful, responsive, and well, smart! We could not do what we do every week without them and I always like to sneak In some extra love and affection for all of them because they definitely deserve it! The thing I love, even more than my team of wonderful leaders and other volunteers and even the horses, is the students. It is the light of my week to go out and help them feel better, be safe, learn more, and have fun. There's not a better feeling to me than when I watched as they improve and knowing i had a hand in that. I love making them laugh and even just getting to talk to them about how their wdek went. One girl in particular I remember that when I first started helping in her class would barely hold her reins, but now she holds them properly, gives commands on her own, and is on the road to being an independent rider. Im proud to be a SMART volunteer. The work we do might not change the whole world, but it might change someone's whole world. And that makes every effort worth it.  

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SMARTRIDERS2018 08/11/2014

Beautifully written, Megan---and thank you so much for this thoughtful review. I reposted it on our FB page!! :))