A Rockingham Superior Court in New Hampshire has directed Melissa Lovasco, president and CEO of the Jumper Classic, to post $20,000 in connection with her legal dispute with David Birdsall and his Silver Oak Equestrian Center.
Silver Oak in Hampton Falls, N.H., has been the site of the Jumper Classic for the last five years. The event took place from Aug. 8-12 this year, but shortly thereafter Lovasco and Birdsall got into a legal dispute.
“Two days after the horse show, David came in and slapped us with a no trespassing order,” said Lovasco. According to a Hampton Falls police report, Lovasco was faxed a property patrol agreement, which means the police department of Hampton Falls and Birdsall agreed that police would patrol the property for trespassers. The police report doesn’t specifically name Lovasco or the Jumper Classic as unwelcome at Silver Oak.
“We didn’t even know what was going on. Still to this day, I don’t even know why he did it, quite honestly. If it was financial reasons, if he thought I wasn’t going to pay my bills, then shame on him. To this day, he hasn’t given me [a bill],” said Lovasco. She said that in years past, the bill was clearly itemized for the various costs of running the show. This year, he emailed her the amount she owed but with no explanation.
“I do owe him money. I haven’t paid my bills because he hasn’t sent me the right bills. It’s just common sense,” she said.
“An itemized bill was sent to Melissa, as well as to her accountant and her lawyer," said Birdsall, refuting Lovasco's claim. "We attached the original bills from the electric and water utilities, bills for which she was responsible. Her lawyer disputed each and every charge and has refused to pay any of the items.”
Also in the police report, both parties made allegations about theft of equipment including jump rails, cups and pins that had been used during the show.
“The property patrol agreement was put in place for protection after rails and jump cups were taken out of a private ring on the property," said Birdsall. "Only Melissa's employees were on the property at the time and when they were confronted they made physical threats to some of the residents. After consulting with the Hampton Falls police, I felt it best to have police patrol the property and put the order in place.”
Lovasco filed a suit in August against Silver Oak claiming the owners of the property had kicked Jumper Classic show personnel off the grounds and refused to give back up to $300,000 worth of equipment.
Per the request of Birdsall, Lovasco agreed to notify him when they’d return to finish the clean up. In the same report, both parties agreed that the Jumper Classic equipment would be removed by Aug. 20.
However, on Aug. 27, Birdsall told police that the Jumper Classic had yet to finish removing all the equipment. At that time, the police department advised the involved parties to contact their lawyers about the violations of the contract.
“Over the last five years, I have had difficult interactions with Melissa,” said Birdsall in a press release. “She failed to live up to some of her contractual obligations, and she consistently showed a disregard for my property and the terms of our contracts. As a result, I terminated her contract for breach after year four  and wrote a new contract for this year  with a specific surrender clause that stated that if she violated the contract that I could hold her property. Unfortunately, her actions left me no choice but to exercise this clause in the contract, after which she chose to sue me. I held her property to ensure that she would live up to her obligations including paying what she owed according to the terms of our contract. Now, with the posting of this $20,000, I have released her property to her.”
Lovasco confirmed that she posted the $20,000 and that all of the Jumper Classic property has been removed from Birdsall’s land, but she said there is equipment missing that she hopes to recover via the legal system.
“She still has not removed all of her property from my farm and has not restored the areas that she used for storage to their original condition as per our contract," said Birdsall. "So yes, we will be back in court, and it’s quite possible that the $20,000 she posted under court order may not be enough to cover the additional cleanup and disposal costs.
"In response to her actions, I am filing a lawsuit against her for breach of contract and defamation of character,” said Birdsall. “I hope that a final court date will become available quickly so that the lawsuit she filed, which is still pending, and the one that I am filing can both be put to rest.”
The Jumper Classic will continue, but it will take place in Massachusetts next year in July.