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Mission & History

Mission Statement

Empowering 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.

A group of people walking and riding horses.


  • Provide our services to as many children and adults in our community with special needs as possible, providing them the opportunity to develop to their greatest potential.
  • Maintain our commitment to play a leading role in improving the lives and well being of our riders and their families and continue to provide our services to all eligible individuals regardless of their ability to pay.
  • Ensure the high quality and safety of our program, continuing to operate in an environment designed to meet the individual needs of our riders and their families. All existing and new professional staff and volunteers will continue to be well trained and committed to serving the goals of the organization.
  • Increase the effectiveness of our program by continuing the development of program outcome measurements that accurately reflect the beneficial results of therapeutic riding.
  • Develop an active, interested, and diverse Board of Directors from members of the community.
  • Maintain fiscal responsibility by controlling expenses while increasing revenues.
  • Develop a broad base of financial support that will continue to grow with the organization.
A man with dreadlocks is looking at the nose of a horse.

Our History

SMART was founded by Betsey London-Fish of Greenwood Riding Academy in Sarasota after she observed striking improvements in one of her young riding students who was dealing with the challenges of Cerebral Palsy.  Betsey decided to start a not-for-profit organization that would provide therapeutic horseback riding for other children and adults with special needs. 

SMART became a 501 (c) organization on March 2, 1987.

SMART also became a North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA) accredited center in 1988.

SMART became a NARHA Premier Accredited Center from 2002-2007

In 2013 SMART became a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International Premier Accredited Center

December of 2011, SMART achieved its long-time dream of purchasing and moving to its permanent home, a 23 acre equestrian center at 4640 CR 675 E in Bradenton.

Since 1987, SMART has provided over 47,152 therapeutic riding/driving and equine assisted learning program hours to over 5,626 individuals. Also, SMART has always been a mostly volunteer-powered organization. 

Horses leave hoofprints on your heart…

There has always been something special about the connection between human and horse—-and our SMART Horses prove that every day. Our Horses are patient, gentle and kind—and take their job as “trusty steed” seriously. They also love to be loved on! These attributes, along with creative caring on the part of our Volunteers, make it possible for our SMART Riders to receive the maximum therapeutic experience.

A woman riding on the back of a horse.

Volunteers Make it Happen

Volunteers are the heart and soul of SMART! As a not-for-profit organization that is mostly volunteer powered, SMART depends and relies on the support and strength of many, many dedicated and caring people. SMART Volunteers are exceptional people! The gift of their time and talents make it possible for every SMART Rider to celebrate the freedom of movement, the companionship of a horse, and the feeling of inclusion and acceptance that comes from being surrounded by people that care about them.

A woman standing in the dirt wearing an orange hat.


Safety is Always First

SMART has been in existence as a not-for-profit organization since 1987 and is a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, Int’l Premier Accredited Center. This accreditation from PATH Intl. recognizes that SMART’s program meets basic standards for health and safety and promotes the well-being of all participants and equines. SMART is one of only 14 Premier Accredited Centers in Florida and the only one in Manatee and Sarasota counties. All of the Riding Instructors are certified by PATH Int’l and are well versed in working with the special needs of each of the participants. At SMART, we take pride in our ability to provide our participants with a quality program that provides a safe, therapeutic and fun experience with goals and objectives adapted to the individual needs of each rider.


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