Dad Said Don’t Aspire To Be McCoy Or Walsh

I was brought up with horses all my life.

My Early Years
Before my parents met my Dad was a show jumper for Ireland. He rode for the Irish Army where he was on the famous three-in-a-row Aga Khan winning team in the late seventies so horses were always a part of my life. It was just a matter of which discipline I was going to take.


Robbie holding the reins of a shetland pony, pictured with Wendy and Danielle Quinlan (Photo: The Irish Field)

I started riding a Shetland pony when I was four years old. I knocked around on that for a couple of years and then progressed the whole way up through the pony ranks. I wouldn’t say I was a natural, I got a lot of falls off her, I know that! After that, show jumping was my first discipline and I then later developed into the racing world.

I remember going to the show jumping shows to see Dad when I was a kid but when you’re six or seven years old you’re not paying too much attention to what’s going on around you.

Then Dad had a bad accident in 1988 which put an end to his show jumping career unfortunately so I don’t really remember him riding live. Obviously I’ve watched all his videos for the Aga Khan trials and the Dublin horse show for example.

My Biggest Influence
He had a huge influence over my riding ability throughout the years. I had an international show jumper watching every single move I made the whole way through my career as a kid.

Any mistake I made, he told me about them and I had to work on them and improve the whole time. I was extremely lucky to have someone with the experience that my Father has both in racing and show jumping.


The three-in-a-row Aga Khan winning team of Paul Darragh on Heather Honey, Captain Con Power on Coolronan, James Kernan on Condy, and Eddie Macken on Boomerang (Photo: Irish Independent)

Before his accident he trained a very good racehorse called Toby Tobias as well who was a runner-up in the Gold Cup for Jenny Pitman in 1990.

To have someone with that experience around especially when you’re a kid is invaluable.

When Dad was training this is what gave me the introduction into thoroughbreds and racing. As a kid on my Shetland pony I had no interest in going into the arena and jumping.

All I wanted to do was ride out with the racehorses on my pony which I did every Saturday morning. She was a fit little pony because she used to ride out two or three laps every morning!

No Pressure
My parents never put any pressure on me to be as good as my Dad. I was allowed to find my own way and as Dad always said to me, “You’ll find your own level.” If I went to a show and made a mistake I was told about it but nine times out of ten I knew exactly what the mistakes were anyway but it was just that extra bit of help to correct a mistake.

Ultimately you find your own level as a rider.

He never told me to be as good as Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh or Barry Geraghty etc.

You can’t do that to people. It does take a bit of time to find your own level.

It doesn’t happen overnight; you don’t automatically become a good rider from the start. You have to learn the whole way through and I think it would be fair to say that I didn’t start off my racing career as a great rider. I think I have improved as the years have gone on.

My sister Elizabeth has gone down the eventing route and she has been very successful also. We help each other out as much as we can and we’ve great people on the ground helping us too.

Becoming a Jockey
When I was fifteen years old I decided I wanted to be a jockey and I rode out for Ger Lyons. He was training just down the road from me. Ger was great. He didn’t care that I was Con Power’s son. He treated me as one of the other lads and I learnt a hell of a lot off Ger from a race riding point of view.

Obviously I had some experience from jumping and schooling horses but from a race riding point of view I didn’t have a whole lot.

Ger was just sort of starting off and he was using jockeys such as Martin Horan who was the amateur of the yard while Conor O’Dwyer would come in a ride some of the better horses so I was always getting excellent advice and working with the two lads as well as Shane Lyons who was still riding at the time.

I’m very lucky that throughout my career I’ve always been in the right places learning from the right people. This is a must for any young person in any sport.

Right People, Right Place, Right Time
The main thing I learned as a young jockey was if you make a mistake, you learn from it and don’t make the same mistake twice. I was lucky with Ger Lyons, then Paddy Mullins and of course Jessie Harrington. I’ve been with brilliant trainers who tell me my mistakes, which I already knew I had made and we’d work on it and not let it happen again.


Robbie riding Doonaveeragh O One in The Bunn Leisure Derby Trial at The Equestrian

Paddy Mullins was also hugely influential in my career as well as his son Tom who also helped me along the way. It’s these people that know exactly what they’re talking about that you listen to carefully and take good advice from.

I’ll never stop making mistakes. I’m only human the same as everyone else. You’re only as good as your last winner in this game!