SMART Visit 10/21/2017

LWRWC Believes in “Magic”

On Saturday, Oct.21, 2017, ladies from the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club visited the home of Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART), located at 4640 CR 675 E. Bradenton, FL. They brought in-kind donations and a pot luck lunch to share with their SMART friends, including staff, volunteers and students.

L-R: Monika Templeman, LWRWC President, Brandi Ezell, Executive Director SMART, and Eileen Buzzard, LWRWC Vice President and Philanthropy Chair during the SMART Farm Tour

The in-kind donations from the Women’s Club included a variety of Cleaning Supplies, large packages of Paper Towels, Latex Gloves, Zip-Lock Bags, Heavy Duty Garbage Bags, towels and Gift Cards to several stores. These donations allow SMART to devote more resources to crucial programs and spend less on basic supplies. The ladies also brought tasty carrot treats for the SMART horses.

Brandi Ezell, Executive Director of SMART, and Nick Drizos, SMART Advisory Board Member, were the hosts of the day. Brandi took the ladies on a tour of the 23-acre equestrian facility and brought the SMART experience to life as she explained the outstanding therapeutic horseback riding and carriage driving programs.


Magic and Kaycee

L-R, “Seeing Eye Horse” Kaycee and MAGIC

The most memorable part of the tour was the opportunity to feed and interact with the amazing SMART horses. This included an up close and personal meeting with Magic, a beautiful 16-hand bay quarter horse with no eyes and his companion and “seeing eye horse” Kaycee, a 33-year-old chestnut-colored Arabian. Magic, who was trained as a show horse, was taught by his owner, Jody Lynn McBrien, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida in Sarasota, to function flawlessly despite being blind. When Magic developed a condition that led to the loss of his eyes and the vet recommended putting him down, Jody refused. Instead, she trained him to function as a sighted horse. She donated him to SMART, where he shares his unique life with riders who have special needs.

Jody Lynn McBrien wrote Magic’s fascinating story in a Children’s book entitled “Magic – One SMART Horse.” This lovely book, filled with so many valuable life lessons, is available on Magic serves as an inspiration to all SMART Riders because he is living proof that it is possible to overcome daunting challenges. Autistic children, who often have trouble making eye contact, find it easy to bond with the horse without eyes.

SMART is one of the Women’s Club’s adopted local charities. SMART is primarily a  volunteer tax deductible organization that, since 1987, fills a crucial need for effective and affordable therapeutic activities for children (ages 5 and over) and adults with a wide range of physical, emotional or cognitive disabilities (including veterans suffering from PTSD and SELA trafficking victims) regardless of their financial circumstances. SMART serves over 650 participants and their families from Manatee, Sarasota and surrounding counties and over 60 % of SMART program participants receive scholarship funding.

SMART Student Hannah Rosin during therapeutic riding session

The ladies from LWRWC also had the opportunity to witness a SMART therapeutic riding lesson and watch children demonstrate skills, self-confidence and independence achieved through their unique connection to the horses. Later, when some of the SMART students joined them for the Pot Luck Lunch, the ladies could see firsthand the invaluable sense of accomplishment that SMART’s students gain, in addition to the physical and cognitive benefits of the riding therapies. SMART welcomes visitors and volunteers. >> or call 941-322-2000.