Sir Tony McCoy has likened the end of his racing career to dying.
The 20-time champion jockey added that trying to forge a new life after retirement was akin to “starting off like an infant again”.
The recently knighted Northern Ireland sporting legend said all talented people had flaws and he was no different, but he has learned how to control them.
The 42-year-old who brought his record-breaking career in the saddle to an end two years ago, said he sympathised with fellow jockey Kieren Fallon, who has had to retire prematurely because of depression.
“I’ve not had depression, but there are times since I retired when I found it really tough,” said the star, from Moneyglass.
“When you have those massive highs, like he did, finding what you do next is very hard”.
McCoy, who lives in England with wife Chanelle (39) and their two children — Eve (8) and two-year-old Archie — has been doing media work since he brought the curtain down on a career that yielded a massive 4,358 winners, including the Grand National, the Gold Cup, the Champion Chase, the Champion Hurdle and the King George.
He said it did not surprise him that a recent survey discovered that 49% of Irish jockeys had shown some signs of depression during their careers.
“When you have those ups, which Kieren had, there are also downs — and they are just as bad,” he told the Times.
“A sportsman is the only type of individual who dies twice in life. Not everyone has that excitement of a job that is really your hobby. When that ends, you are starting off like an infant again.
“How will you cope? We are all flawed.
“I’d like to tell you I don’t have any flaws, but I do. It is about how you control them. I haven’t met a talented person who isn’t flawed.”
Six-times champion jockey Fallon (51) announced his decision to quit the sport earlier this week following a hugely successful career that has seen him ride 16 British classic winners, including three Epsom Derbies.
But there were also his well-documented bans because of drug use, allegations of race fixing — of which he was cleared — and controversial departures from the stables of leading trainers, including Sir Henry Cecil, Sir Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien.
Although McCoy admitted that he “did not know Kieren that well”, the Berkshire-based athlete had nothing but kind words for his fellow sportsman.
“Whatever anyone says about him, he was a really kind person and very likeable,” the Co Antrim man said.
“For all the good and the bad you might read about him, I only have good things to say about him. He was a brilliant jockey.
“For seven or eight years, he was as good as there has been. He has experienced everything. I wish him well.”
Referring to his own decision to hang up the reins — which was heavily influenced by Chanelle — McCoy acknowledged that it took enormous strength to see the choice through.
“I have been very lucky — I still have direction,” he said. “I had a structure and a plan — that retirement had to be done, hopefully at the top of my game. It didn’t suddenly come upon me. For Kieren, it is different. He has suddenly decided to do this.”
Shortly after McCoy’s retirement in 2014, Chanelle told a newspaper that life was less stressful since she no longer had to worry about Tony — who sustained more than 700 falls and broke more than 40 bones — coming a cropper on a horse. “There’s certainly relief about that, and the kids adore him being around a lot more — our daughter, Eve, has certainly noticed it,” she said.