The return of The Jumper Classic to its local roots for a 24th year has stalled at the gate.
The show jumping event, scheduled to be held this week at Ipswich’s Maplecroft Farm and conclude Sunday with world-class riders vying for $50,000 in the climactic grand prix, has been postponed for the second time this summer.
President and CEO Melissa Lovasco, who has run the event for 18 years, said that because of scheduling conflicts, The Jumper Classic was unable to attract enough riders for this week’s show. Along with many of New England’s top amateurs, the world’s elite riders are in Saugerties, N.Y., this week for Zoetis’s $1 Million Grand Prix on Sunday.
“There’s a $1 million [event] going on this week, there was a $500,000 [event] last week, a $500,000 [event] next week; its tough,” Lovasco said. “I think the original postponement [in July] because of all the rain really killed us.
“Everybody already had their schedules already done. People make their plans [and] they go with the whole barn.”
Lovasco said she was trying to secure a new date, but was not sure whether she could reschedule before the weather turns cold and the ground freezes.
“I wouldn’t think you’d have an outdoor show after Halloween,” Lovasco said. “We’re working on it.”
‘They’ve been very generous to us over the years. I’m confident we would have sold more than 100 [tickets].’
The Jumper Classic was originally scheduled to be held at Maplecroft Farm July 10 to July 14, but it was postponed because heavy June rainfall had created flooding on the property, Lovasco said. It would not have affected footing on the jumper field, she said, but by bringing in temporary stables, vendors, spectators, trucks, and trailers, there could have been significant damage to the grounds.
Lovasco said it takes approximately 250 riders to have a successful show, and that she had more than enough signed up in July. But only about 100 registered for the September event.
West Newbury-based New England Equine Rescue North Inc. sold tickets to a fund-raising luncheon that had been scheduled for Saturday at The Jumper Classic.
“They’ve been very generous to us over the years,” said NEER president Mary Martin. “I’m confident we would have sold more than 100 [tickets].”
Lane Doane, from the Four Seasons Trading Post in Danvers, planned to run a vendor booth at this year’s event, but said Lovasco called him the night before announcing the cancellation on Aug. 29.
“She was very nice about it, and said she felt very bad about it,” said Doane, who has been a vendor at the event in the past.
After the decision was made, Jumper Classic staffers were making phone calls and sending e-mails to notify those involved, sending information to the news media, and posting information on its website and Facebook page.
Andover’s Joann Hayssen, a jewelry designer, said she didn’t find out about the postponement until Saturday.
She said she was tempted “to drive up Tuesday [when vendors would arrive to set up] and see if people show up,” she said. “I’m kind of baffled.”
The Jumper Classic began in 1989, the brainchild of the late Ipswich equestrian Don Little, bringing show jumpers from all over the world to a well-attended event that made a significant impact on the area’s economy, bringing thousands of dollars to local restaurants, hotels, and stores.
It was held at different locations in Ipswich and Hamilton, but following a dispute with the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton six years ago, it moved to The Silver Oak Equestrian Center in Hampton Falls, N.H.
The event continued successfully in Hampton Falls, but in 2012 the show ended with conflict between Lovasco and two long-term allies, Jumper Classic chairman Jeffrey Papows and the late David Birdsall, owner of the Silver Oak Equestrian Center.
Lovasco and Birdsall traded lawsuits and Birdsall sought help from the Hampton Falls Police Department — which enforced a no-trespassing order — with each side alleging the other had taken equipment from the other. Birdsall died on Jan. 16 after contracting a bronchial infection. Lovasco said she settled the suits.
Papows, a Gloucester resident, founded the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament in Hampton Falls and held it Aug. 7 to 11. It was run in Birdsall’s memory and raised “tens of thousands of dollars” for the Children’s Wish Foundation, Papows said , along with money to support the therapeutic riding program at the University of New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, Lovasco relocated the Jumper Classic to Maplecroft Farm in Ipswich. It remains to be seen when it will get off the ground.