Wednesday 22 January 2020

'I couldn't take it anymore, these guys had got to me' - Teen jockey admits bullies almost made him quit horse riding

Aubrey McMahon celebrates after winning the Connacht Hotel Handicap on Whiskey Sour on Day of the Galway Festival at Ballybrit yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile
Aubrey McMahon celebrates after winning the Connacht Hotel Handicap on Whiskey Sour on Day of the Galway Festival at Ballybrit yesterday. Photo: Sportsfile

Claire Fox

A jockey who enjoyed a 'dream' win at the Galway Races admits he almost gave up riding for good after online trolls left him feeling like he 'couldn't take it anymore.'

Aubrey McMahon (19) rode his father's horse and Willie Mullin's trained Whiskey Sour to victory in the Amateur Derby at Ballybrit last week.

Speaking on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One today, he said that he took a year out from riding when he was 17 due to online tolls calling him "every name under the sun".

He said of that experience a few ago: "On my third ride I got beat on the first horse that I had rode my winner in Galway and was beaten by a length.

"I was my own worst critic and came back in and checked my phone and I had ten tweets from ten anonymous lads with no name or no face. "That got me going more.

"You can imagine that anyone who doesn't have a name or a picture behind them were calling me every name under the sun and I let that stuff get to me. That boiled me over."

The teenager said the pressure from online bullies made him not enjoy riding anymore.

"For someone who started out with their amateur license just delighted to be pursuing my dream, I was getting up in the morning and I wasn't enjoying riding out or going racing because I felt I had to prove those guys wrong, when it should've been the other way around.

Aubrey McMahon celebrates winning the Connacht Hotel (QR) Handicap on Whiskey Sour during the Galway Races Summer Festival 2017 at Ballybrit, in Galway. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Aubrey McMahon celebrates winning the Connacht Hotel (QR) Handicap on Whiskey Sour during the Galway Races Summer Festival 2017 at Ballybrit, in Galway. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

"I felt I had to start doing things to suit other people for all the wrong reasons," he said.

Read More: Jubilant teen jockey beats cyberbullies by winning biggest horse race of his career on Galway opening day

Aubrey confided in his parents, who were "supportive" but he still felt under pressure from the bullies.

"My dad always said to me that years ago, if you wanted to give out to jockey you'd have to go in and say it to his face and have the balls to do it, now you don't need that, they can sit behind a computer.

"They did support me but I couldn't get my whole head around it and I couldn’t take it anymore," he explained.

Aubrey got to the point where the only way he felt he could "knock it in the head" was to give up riding and took an office job in Sandyford.

He told his father and fellow jockey Patrick Mullins, who both tried to "talk him out of it".

"I wasn't enjoying riding for a long time. I couldn’t take it anymore.  I just couldn't do it and came to a decision one day that I was finished.

Whiskey Sour, with Aubrey McMahon up (second left), on the way to winning the Connacht Hotel Handicap. Photo: PA
Whiskey Sour, with Aubrey McMahon up (second left), on the way to winning the Connacht Hotel Handicap. Photo: PA

"I told my dad and text Patrick Mullins. My dad was disappointed that I'd left these guys get to me because he knew I loved it ever since I was a kid and it was a dream. I'd let these guys get to me. He didn't say much to me after."

The 9-5 working day wasn't for Aubrey' though and he decided to start riding out again a year later.

"It was an experience but you're working for someone else instead of yourself. I began to ride out three mornings a week while working but I was only tiring myself out," he said. 

Read More: A Galway marathon

Aubrey soon text his father and told him he was returning to being a jockey full-time.

"I had to think about it for two or three weeks as there's not much money in race riding. If you put it down on paper people would say I was mad to leave the job.

"My father was away somewhere and I text him and said it's something I can't leave behind and I'm going to get myself back fit and I feel it's something I was born to go after."

When Aubrey returned to riding he stopped Googling his name and he said if he sees something on Twitter now he just laughs.

"I used to Google my name and found forums and you get paranoid but when you give it a break it clears your head. The year out was the best thing that ever happened to me. I came back with a clear head on my shoulders," he added.

Aubrey said that the win in Ballybrit last week and winning on his father's horse that was a "dream."

"It was only my second ride back, you're in your own world a couple of seconds after the line. My father got a great kick out of it. It was a dream."

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News