Riders at the Manito Equestrian Center. One of the trainers, Jennifer Lomastro, has been on staff since 2014 and instructs 300 therapeutic lessons per month. (Courtesy of Manito Center)

Trainer Jennifer Lomastro redefines riders’ capabilities

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Mackenzie and Tammy Eisenhart are still unsure of how they were lucky enough to receive the letter that day. 

The letter mentioned an instructor that specialized in therapeutic riding who invited them to try out the Manito Life Center. 

“I thought, ‘Why not,” Mackenzie Eisenhart said. “I would love to ride a horse.” 

As they made their way to the arena, they wondered what this would entail. But even their best guesses could not have prepared them for the chapter that this woman would open. 

Little did they know, the face from the flyer was about to come to life. Just behind the gates stood a trainer who was dedicated to Mackenzie Eisenhart’s potential, inside and outside of the arena. They just hadn’t met her yet. 

The Manito Life Center hired Jennifer Lomastro in 2014 as head instructor. Instructing up to 300 therapeutic lessons per month, Lomastro teaches that potential is found when limits are lost. With her background in veterinary technology and compassion for her students, Lomastro creates a bridge of trust between the horse and rider, challenging the barriers placed upon them and redefining their capabilities. 

Manito Equestrian Center Owner Lisa Schadt selected Lomastro as the head instructor because of her intelligence and willingness to take on a challenge. 

“I could tell that she was by far the best and most knowledgeable therapeutic riding instructor that I had ever seen,” Schadt said. “She is the perfect mix of intelligent and compassionate. She supports my vision, and she shares it with our clients.” 

When Lomastro got the position, she picked up her life and moved from Oklahoma City to Allentown. Since her move, she has committed to making Manito Life Center a home, not just for herself, but for her riders. 

“I have very little personal life separate from Manito,” Lomastro said. “People are drawn to Manito because our Manito family transcends the workplace. We are a family, both on the grounds and off. I am never separate from my role at Manito.” 

While Lomastro is glad that her personal and work lives intersect, managing 300 therapeutic lessons per month requires a special drive. Lomastro sets the tone, and Manito instructor Katie Foster has learned from her, both as a mentor and friend. 

“I don’t know where she gets the energy,” Foster said. “(Lomastro) doesn’t act like a boss unless she has to. She sets the tone that we are a family first. We each have our things that we do best, and she lets us run with them.” 

Lomastro applies her equine knowledge as she builds bridges between horses and riders, overcoming boundaries that they were once told they would never conquer. 

Born with cerebral palsy, Mackenzie Eisenhart spends the majority of her day confined by her wheelchair. But her 30 minutes with Lomastro and her horse, Rock, remind her that she has potential beyond her limitations. 

“(She) has had an amazing impact on my life,” Mackenzie Eisenhart said. “I can’t imagine my life without (her). She and Rock know me better than anyone else.” 

Having found her purpose as a therapeutic riding instructor and trainer, Lomastro works to share that sense of purpose. Each day, she hopes to leave riders with that same sense of belonging and accomplishment. 

“The most special part of my job is the moment when somebody realizes that they are able to do things that they never dreamed of, and we were able to make that happen,” Lomastro said. “For me, it is my duty to execute that plan (knowing that I’m) going to get this rider to do this, even if they don’t think they can.”

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