Jumper Classic Leaves NH; Show Was in Lawsuit with Venue [UPDATE]

The international horse show has changed venues because the "lease was up," although property disputes did lead to a civil case.

[Editor's note: This story has been altered to better reflect the facts of the court cases and the reasoning behind the Jumper Classic's decision to leave Hampton Falls.]


A prestigious annual equine competition won't be held on the Seacoast this year, as organizers have announced they are returning the show to its "roots" just a few months after the show agreed in court to pay $20,000 to its now-former venue in Hampton Falls.

The Jumper Classic, an international competition that draws thousands over the summer, will be held at Maplecroft Farm in Ipswich, Mass., in July 2013 instead of at Hampton Falls' Silver Oak Equestrian Center, where it had been held since 2008, according to a release Monday from the Jumper Classic.

The announcement comes not long after a Rockingham Superior Court judge signed off on an order in November stating the President and CEO Melissa Lovasco would pay $20,000 to Silver Oak owner David Birdsall as part of the lawsuit filed by Lovasco against Birdsall, according to Chronicle of the Horse.

Lovasco filed the lawsuit against Birdsall in late August 2012 after the venue allegedly kicked them off the 340 Exeter Road property and refused to return between $200,000 to $300,000 worth of equipment, according to a previous Hampton Union report. Birdsall has also filed a suit against Lovasco and the Jumper Classic.

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Representatives from the Jumper Classic and Silver Oak couldn't immediately be reached for comment before the original version of this story ran Monday. Birdsall, 58, passed away on Jan. 17, and his obituary states that his death came shortly after contracting a bronchial infection.

Rockingham Superior Court staff confirmed Tuesday after the original Patch story was published that a court order had been issued. Lovasco told Patch Tuesday that the decision to leave Hampton Falls was due to the fact that the "lease was up" and because the Jumper Classic "didn't want to deal" with a venue they've found to be difficult over the years.

Lovasco also told Patch said she has paid the $20,000, which has been placed in escrow. Lovasco said the cases are still active, although she indicated a resolution may soon be coming and claimed that the final amount owed will be about $6,000 — not $20,000.

"I've been happy to pay them since the day I left there," said Lovasco.

In a November press release, Birdsall cited "difficult interactions" with Lovasco as the reasoning behind the contract termination, and claimed he held her property to "ensure that she would live up to her obligations" to repay the $20,000 she owed, according to PhelpsSports.com. Birdsall wrote in the release that he released the Jumper Classic's property after the $20,000 was posted.

The Hampton Union has previously reported that Lovasco claimed in her lawsuit that Birdsall notified her before the 2012 Jumper Classic that Birdsall planned to terminate their lease agreement one year early. She also reportedly claimed Birdsall wanted to increase the rent.

Lovasco offered the following additional written statement about the decision to change venues, which could create a significant revenue loss for Hampton Falls and the surrounding area this summer:

"We are pleased to be returning to this historically active center of equestrian events in the New England area where the show has enjoyed the participation of many exhibitors and spectators over the years," said Melissa Lovasco, President of the event since 1999. While the location is a familiar one, the mid-summer show dates are new, and Lovasco believes this will be a better fit for the east coast summer show jumping circuit schedule.

The Jumper Classic was established in 1989 in South Hamilton, Mass., and the event was held on the North Shore in both South Hamilton and Ipswich until it moved to Hampton Falls in 2008, according to Monday's Jumper Classic release.

More information about the Jumper Classic is available here.

Stephen LaBranche February 05, 2013 at 12:03 AM
Mr. Birdsall died on January 17, 2013. God Bless him; he brought that 'world-class' event to Hampton Falls. The seacoast lost a 'special' person as well as a special event. I think his death should be included as part of this story...
Kyle Stucker February 05, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Steve, Thank you very much for the information. I will add it now, as I just found an obituary for him.
Kyle Stucker February 05, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Small update posted in this story: Lovasco has left me a voicemail — the details of which have been added to this story. I'll have a followup story when I can.
Kyle Stucker February 05, 2013 at 09:18 PM
I have made several edits to the original version of this story after speaking with Lovasco. The intention of the changes is to clarify the nature and status of the court cases, as well as the Jumper Classic's decision to leave Hampton Falls.


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