The Argus XXXII

Tinagroo Stock Horse’s Jill Macintyre by Victoria Carey

Once one of Australia’s best lady polo players, Jill Macintyre has spent the past 30 years breeding champion stock horses.

Words Victoria Carey. Photography Pip Farquharson.

You only need to spend a few minutes in the company of Jill Macintyre to realise she is very serious about her horses.

If I see a foal, I will remember that horse forever,” the 57-year old tells me from Invermein, the historic property where she lives just outside of Scone. I’ve sold hundreds of horses, but someone can ring me up 20 years later and I immediately know which horse they bought.”

It’s hardly surprising. Her father, Bryant Gavin, also had a great eye for a horse and helped found the Australian Stock Horse Society, becoming its first president in 1971.

Dad was a wonderful horseman and I was lucky to grow up with very good horses,” Jill says. I definitely got my sporting spirit from him. Our whole family thrives on competition.”

She’s just come inside for our interview after sending one member of that family, her 23 year-old son Hector, off in a truck loaded with ponies to the latest competition – a polo match at Quirindi. Bruce, Jill’s older brother, will also be there playing alongside his nephew.

Yes, there’s certainly lots of evidence to show the Gavin/Macintyre clan’s formidable prowess on any sporting field is still in full swing.

Jill herself is no stranger to the game of polo. She first played while working as a groom for King Charles in 1990/1991. I learnt to stick and ball on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle,” she explains.

Later scouted by Major Ronald Ferguson, who was the then Prince’s polo manager, Jill played at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in the first International Ladies Polo Tournament. It was great fun and I ended up playing for Australia – riding the Prince’s ponies,” she says.

After eventually becoming one of Australia’s best female players with a one-goal handicap, Jill was forced to retire after developing atrial fibrillation while pregnant. It was then she decided to focus on breeding stock horses.

After Jill’s father died in 1995, he had left his youngest daughter six Australian Stock Horse mares. With their trademark good temperament, beautiful movement and great versatility, their progeny quickly became much sought after. From camp drafting and polo to dressage and eventing, there seems to be nothing a Tinagroo horse cannot do.

A lot of this success can be traced back to the day Jill swapped her car for a horse. She leans back in her chair and laughs at the memory.

I had a new Toyota Corolla, which I had spent all my savings on, and mum needed a new one. It was that simple,” she explains. I have never really put much value on cars.”

Of course, Gavins Serena was no ordinary horse. Sired by Crown Law, a famous South Australian stallion who had competed in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Serena was the result of Bryant Gavin’s constant striving to breed the best stock horses in the country. Dad put two mares in the truck and drove them all the way to South Australia and the result was this filly – Serena,” says Jill. She was a beautiful bay with a small star. I remember when she was born at Wansey as she had a lot of presence and stood out from the rest.”

Wansey is the cattle and sheep station near Cumnock in New South Wales where it all began. Jill grew up here as the youngest of five. She had a typical country childhood, spending long hours in the saddle mustering cattle. I did learn a lot from my parents and older siblings when I was growing up. It was difficult not to,” she says.

There was a formidable bank of knowledge for her to draw on. Bryant was an expert stockman spending his spare time travelling the country classifying horses for the fledging Australian Stock Horse Society, while her mother Jean was a vet. Today, the now 91-year-old is still helping out a little on the family property. Mum is pretty amazing to still be working,” says Jill, who recently bought a small place next door to her childhood home and plans to eventually live there.

Jill moved to the Hunter region after meeting Duncan Macintyre, then the president of the Scone Polo Club (he has just recently finished his second stint) and who is now VIP of Scone Horse Festival. After marrying in 1998, the couple lived on Tinagroo Station, over 4000 hectares of grazing country on the north-western side of Scone, before buying Invermien in 2013.

Settled in 1825 by Francis Little, it was the first settlement in the area – Scone was not officially gazetted until 1837 – and home to the local courthouse and gaol. Named after a stream near his father’s house in Scotland, Invermein – but with a change in spelling – was to stay in Little’s family until 1877. It is thought to have played a part in the introduction of prickly pear into Australia after Mrs Little was given a cutting brought from India which she carefully planted in the garden where it quickly thrived. A drover came past and picked some and took it to Queensland or so the story goes,” says Jill, “and the rest is history.”

The Macintyre family love living at Invermien. You can only ever be custodians of properties like this,” she explains.

But the younger generation are constantly on the move. Florence is home for a quick visit from the University of New England where she is in the final weeks of her agribusiness degree. The 22-year-old is going to New Zealand this summer to work as a polo groom for a high goal polo player.

Flo is a real country girl,” says her mother. She’s hoping to play polo and show stock horses when she gets back.”

Whatever happens, there is one thing that is certain. There will always be a couple of horses in the paddock waiting for her, including her current favourite Scout, the grandson of a certain bay mare with a small white star who stood out from the rest”.

Some things will never change.

Follow Jill’s breeding and showing journey on Instagram @tinagroostockhorses and

Jill Macintyre’s Address Book

Green Seed Grocer

I go here for locally sourced vegetables and honey. You never know what you might find, it
could be something like delicious green beans or snow peas a 12-year-old boy has grown.”

131 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone 0438 638 851.

MacCallum & Co

Jill goes to this produce store for everything from calf milk to a pair of Blundstone boots. They are very good on up-to-date advice on what to feed your mare and foal or a horse in full work for showing, campdrafting and polo. They also have very good horse rugs and a wide range of veterinary products. It’s basically my one-stop shop for all the animals on the

71 Main Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 5516 8002.

Marsh Carney Saddlery

Marsh Carney, who breeds cutting horses and did his apprenticeship with John Charlton, is well known for his wonderful Scone store. Founded in 1980, the shop has since been joined by branches in Tamworth and Dubbo. I go here for all things horsey,” says Jill.

124 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. (02) 6545 1599.

Peter Britt Saddlery

This master craftsman has been making his wonderful saddles for over 40 years and is Jill’s go-to for a lot of her gear. We bought our two kids their stock saddles from him when they were small and he made my show ASH stock saddle,” she says. He repairs absolutely
everything and his wife Mel repairs rugs for all the studs. He has even fixed Flo’s favourite
handbag when the stitching came away”

Rear 128 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 2543.

Ruby’s Girl

Always well stocked with an extensive range of lingerie.

Shop 1/165 Kelly Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 9200.

Scone RSL

The king prawn laksa is Jill’s favourite thing on the menu at the Scone RSL. The club also
has a golf course, much loved by locals.

71 Guernsey Street, Scone, NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1669.

Victoria Carey

Our editorial director shares Jill’s passion for stock horses. “I also grew up riding every day so I could have spoken to Jill for hours,” she says. “I have the feeling the conversation has only just started!”

Pip Farquharson

An early morning spent filming foals was this Orange-based photographer’s idea of heaven. “It was lovely to photograph a family that were so passionate about their horses,” she says. “I also appreciated seeing Jill’s collection of saddles, horseshoes and her parents” lovely old polocrosse hats.”

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