STILL SHINING - M JAY FORTUNE
Some horses begin their careers on the show circuit and shine for a few seasons, that is, before they are sold on or lose their flare. They might see the championship line up at a royal once in their career, and yes there are those few exceptions. M Jay fortune emulated perfection, the epitome of a true show hunter, and it was evident he was never there to make up class numbers, and neither was Melise.
By Becc Harnas
Bred by Melise Webb in 2003, M Jay Fortune (Billy as he is known) was the first foal to kick start the successful Australian Stock Horse breeding business for M Jay ASH Stud and perhaps, Melise’s most successful home-bred horse to date.
Billy was the first of many out of Melise’s successful M Jay stallion Win D Fortitude. He was successfully campaigned by Melise as an Australian Stock Horse and won numerous awards as a yearling. Early on in his career, he was awarded Champion Led Yearling at the inaugural Stock Horse Nationals. He was gelded late as a 4-year-old. “You can only compete stallions in stallion classes, so their success is somewhat limited,” says Melise.
Soon after being gelded, Melise commenced the successful Australian Stock Horse’s career as a Show Hunter Galloway. He was a very competitive type from the get go, well-built and an unbeatable gallop. “You just couldn’t beat his gallop”.
In 2008, as a five-year-old, he launched onto the ‘show circuit’ – his highlight? Winning the Ridden Australian National Saddle Horse at Sydney Royal and going on to claim the 2008 Champion Ridden Australian National Saddle Horse.
In the same year, he won the led maturity section at the 2008 Stock Horse National Championships from a large field. He also had top three placings in both the led and ridden ASH sections at Sydney Royal, and it became evident that he was going to be a very successful show horse and ASH hack.
In 2009 he returned to Sydney Royal to win the Novice Large Hunter Galloway class, and was again in the top five placings for both led and ridden Australian Stock Horse.
In 2010 he won the Large Show Hunter Galloway height class at Sydney Royal. He was also declared Champion Large Show Hunter Galloway at Show Horse Council Horse of the Year NSW.
He was Champion Large Show Hunter Galloway at Canberra Royal in 2011, and at the 2012 Show Horse Council Grand Nationals was declared the Runner Up Large Show Hunter Galloway of the Year. M Jay Fortune and Melise were dominating the show circuit, at a time where Australian Stock Horses had hardly broken into the realm of showing.
“Oh the Stock horse won”, Melise recalls people saying. “People were hard pressed to believe that an ASH could be quality enough, or true to type enough to win a Show Hunter class at an Agricultural Show, let alone a Royal back then. They do now because the quality has improved out of sight, but back then it was surprising for people. He had a lot against him, people questioned his ability to do well, never the less no accolade could be taken away from us,” says Melise.
One year, at Sydney Royal he competed with a hogged mane. “It was always a tough decision whether to hog him or not. At ASH shows judges like a horse with no mane and a hunter judge likes a horse with a mane”.
In 2013 Melise and Billy returned to Sydney Royal for another year, where they won the Ladies Show Hunter Galloway and went on the be awarded the coveted title of Champion Show Hunter Galloway for 2013. This was an emotional moment for Melise and remains one of her all-time favourite wins. “I had finally done it, he had pulled off the big one and it was all my own work you know. I bred him, I broke him in, I cleaned his poo, I trained him and looked after him. I didn’t pay a professional to ride or train him and my success was recognised, and that’s special”.
Billy had won or done just about anything, Champion Show Hunter Galloway at Canberra Royal in 2011 and again in 2013 the same year he won at Sydney. Champion Show Hunter Galloway one week and team sorting the next. In 2014 ridden By Alexander Jones, who was campaigning him at the time, he was declared Reserve Champion Ridden Australian Stock Horse at Melbourne Royal.
“He does everything, he will gallop all day, chase a cow, he’s won led and ridden as an ASH at highly regarded shows, at national level. He’s won working classes and show hunter classes under different judges at the same show, on the same day. He’s been used to win boy rider classes and turnout classes. I don’t think you can, in recent times, name a more versatile horse. “He’s a tough horse and that’s probably why he made it so successfully through colic surgery.”
In early 2018 Billy fell ill to colic and Melise made the tough decision to operate. “He’s not an easy horse he is full of personality and he’s really tough that’s why, I think, he was so strong through colic surgery and after. He was in Sydney for the surgery and they rang to tell me he was pooring and kicking the door because they weren’t feeding him enough. Take him home they said, he’s fixed.”
Melise brought him home and he was perfectly himself and it wasn’t long before she was back riding him again. When I asked Melise what the future held for Billy, was retirement on the cards? She told me that once you retire them they start to deteriorate.
“He doesn’t owe me anything, he’s earnt his keep ten times over, he doesn’t get too much work and he’s never had a hard day. He still looks as good as he did 10 years ago. He’s 15 now and he still wins led and ridden classes from strong line ups. Why retire a horse that’s sound and happy, if he tells me otherwise then we will make changes. When the time does come to retire him, he will be looked after sitting in my paddock until the day he dies. He’s not a turn over horse, he’s mine. He’s my first foal, the first of my breeding at M Jay and I did all the work myself and that’s just the best feeling,” says Melise.