What does SMART stand for and what does it do?
Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy. SMART provides individuals with special needs of all kinds an opportunity to exercise their bodies, minds and spirits through a quality therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving program.
What’s so therapeutic about riding a horse?
The benefits of riding a horse include the physical aspects of increased body awareness, improvement in balance and posture, stretching and releasing of hypertonic muscles as well as strengthening hypotonic muscles, increasing flexibility and improving coordination. Cognitively, riders are challenged to concentrate more fully and for longer periods of time, remember specific task sequencing, communicate verbally or physically with their horse and instructor, practice self discipline and control, and work through frustrations in a positive and non-aggressive manner. Emotionally, working with horses provides a pathway for the student to receive and give unconditional love. This results in a connection with another living being that leads to an increase in self confidence and self respect, as well as true sense of accomplishment.
How many horses do you have?
14 horses of all breeds---most of which have been donated to the program and all of whom are gentle, sweet and well trained for their job.
How many riders do you serve?
We serve over 650 participants and their families each year.
How long has SMART been in business, is it a not-for-profit organization, and does it have any kind of accreditation?
SMART has been incorporated and designated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization since March 2, 1987. That's over 30 years! SMART also has the distinction of being a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship Int'l Premier Accredited Center.
When are lessons given?
Group therapeutic riding lessons are:
Tuesdays 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Thursdays 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Saturdays 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
Private lessons and carriage driving lessons are offered throughout the week at various times throughout the day. Call 322-2000 for more information.
I have a child with a disability who qualifies for the program, and another child who is not disabled. Could both of my children take lessons at SMART?
Our program is set up to only serve individuals with special needs. However, there are several riding stables in the area, which may serve your other child’s needs.
Where are you located?
We are located in East Bradenton at 4640 County Road 675 E. between State Road 70 and State Road 64. We are just north of Hunsader Farms. Click here for a map and directions.
How much do you charge for lessons and how long are the lessons?
We charge $25 per hour for a group therapeutic riding lesson. However, SMART never turns anyone away due to an inability to pay. We have a tuition assistance application that can be submitted and we use a sliding scale fee to determine payment ranging from $0 - $25. We work hard to provide scholarships for all those who need them.
We have also started offering private therapeutic riding lessons at $40 per half hour or $65 per hour. This allows us to pay our volunteer instructors for their additional time at SMART. No scholarships are available for private lessons.
We charge $25 per hour for a group therapeutic driving lesson with scholarships available. Private driving lessons are $60 per half hour lesson and $80 per hour lesson.
There is an annual membership fee of $50 that is due at the first lesson and with annual renewal applications.
What types of disabilities qualify?
We serve individuals who have any type of physical, emotional or cognitive disability. We currently serve riders with attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, stroke victims, epilepsy, developmental delays, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing and speech impairments, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, blindness, autism, and psychological or emotional challenges.
Are there age restrictions?
Individuals must be at least 5 years of age and there is no maximum age.
Are there weight restrictions?
Due to safety reasons, our Riding Program can only serve individuals who weigh less than 180 lbs. However, we also have a Carriage Driving Program, which allows individuals who weigh more than 180 lbs. (or for individuals who cannot transfer from their wheelchair) to safely participate in this equine activity.
How many volunteers to do you have?
On a weekly basis, we have between 20 – 35 volunteers at any given time. We have a minimum volunteer age of 14. SMART is a mostly volunteer powered organization---so volunteers play a very, very important role in the effectiveness of the program. We are always eager to invite new volunteers to join us and become a part of the SMART Team.
If I want to volunteer, do I have to get trained?
Yes, we start with a short orientation which is given several times each month. A one-on-one orientation can also be arranged by appointment. Following the orientation, training is accomplished by having experienced volunteers mentor new volunteers for a period of time. Contact us through the web site for information on the date of the next orientation or call us at 322-2000. We need volunteers for hands-on horse and rider support during lessons as well as assistance with fundraising, administrative work and facility maintenance.
Where do you get your funding?
We receive funding from Individuals (10%) Corporate and Civic contributions (9%), Special Events (28%), Foundations & Grants (35%), Program Service Fees (11%) and Manatee County Government (3%). Our annual budget is around $400,000.
What percentage of your budget is used for administrative & fundraising costs?
Our administrative and fundraising costs are right at 3%. We have three paid staff.
Are you on Facebook?
Yes! Click the link here to like our page: www.facebook.com/smartriders
Do you have any sponsorship programs?
Yes. You can "Sponsor a Rider" for $875, which pays for a Scholarship for therapeutic riding lessons for one rider for one year. You can also "Adopt a Horse" for $250, $500, or $1000 which helps to pay for some of the feed, vet and farrier costs for one horse for a year.
Can I visit the program?
YES! We love having visitors! Plan to visit anytime during our scheduled lessons (see #6 above)...or give us a call at 322-2000 to set up an appointment for a tour.
How can I help SMART?
Become a Volunteer or help support SMART financially.