Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of horse-loving volunteers, the Sarasota Manatee Association of Riding Therapy (better known as SMART) has earned a prestigious industry designation that is reserved only for the very best equine therapy centers in the world.
The status of being a Premier Accredited Center is bestowed by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl), a global authority, resource and advocate for equine-assisted activities and therapies. The rigorous accreditation process is a peer review system that includes 112 standards, ranging from safety protocols and animal welfare to facility management and administrative practices.
“It took a lot of hard work from many, many volunteers to prepare for this certification” said Gail Clifton, volunteer executive director. “Together, we not only met but exceeded PATH’s requirements and standards. Now, as a Premier Accredited Center, SMART is recognized as a leading facility for equine assisted activities and therapies – and that makes us all very proud!”
This achievement means that SMART is one of only 11 Premier Accredited Centers in Florida and the only one in Manatee and Sarasota counties. There are more than 50 therapeutic riding centers throughout the state and over 850 worldwide.
Established in 1987, the Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) is a non-profit organization that provides horseback riding, carriage driving and equine-assisted activities for individuals with disabilities. Located in eastern Manatee County, SMART is an all-volunteer group that serves up to 300 families per year, including people suffering from a variety of conditions such as autism, stroke, attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome, as well as at-risk youth, amputees, and those with terminal illness, emotional or mental health conditions, and hearing, speech or vision impairments. Among the activities offered are summer and day camps, competitions (Special Olympics and Paralymics), driving, grooming and tacking, therapeutic riding, and veterans’ programs. Volunteers over age 14 are welcome to join the organization at any time after completing an orientation and training program.
For more information, call 941-322-2000 or visit online at www.smartriders.org.