Credo: Hayley Turner, jockey

'I'll wear heels and skirts to watch the races. Why not?'

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The Independent Online

I'm a really competitive person It's something you have in you – ambition and drive. It's just basically your nature. I went to France for a break recently, and the lads had a swimming race. They were just having a laugh – but I really wanted to do it. I told myself, "Just resist, you don't need to be in this. Relax' – but I found that really hard: they're having a competition and I'm not taking part!

Even as a child I was such a perfectionist I was terribly competitive, I just had to win everything. I think I got it from my parents – my dad is into his sports and my mum is very independent and strong willed.

Racing people are quite intense It does you good mentally to have a break and hang out with people who aren't in the racing bubble.

Jockeys wouldn't do what they do if they weren't ambitious But it's not brutal – when you're on the track you can't bully people or the horses. And because the hours are so long and you do a lot travelling with the other jockeys, you all know each other – there's a lot of banter.

I work as hard as the lads do I'm actually a bit lucky, because being a woman I get lots of publicity. To other people, it's like: "Oh my god, it's a woman." But it's not a big deal for me – I'm doing it everyday.

Just because I'm doing a man's sport doesn't mean I have to be manly I am a girl. [There's no pressure to be glamorous] because generally I'm in my riding gear. It's different off the track; I'll wear heels and skirts to the races. Why not?

it's important to be yourself. It doesn't really make a difference what the audience think of you. It's not like I set a target to be a role model, I never expected to be as successful as I have been. But at least [younger girls] can see that it's achievable, which is nice.

I definitely want to have children But I think it is just something that will happen. What will be will be. I look forward to the next chapter which is hopefully having a family. I've got a few years…

Racing is not at all a cruel sport The horses are better looked after than any animal you could ever imagine. A lot of money is spent on them. UK racing is the best in the world – it's the classiest. I'm lucky to be part of it.

The perception of racing is wealth and betting But it's not just that; it's good fun, it's a good family day out. The public perception of racing isn't as broad as it should be. That's a massive issue the racing industry is looking to overcome.

Hayley Turner, 29, is the UK's number-one female jockey and is the only woman to win a Group One race in the UK. She's an ambassador for QIPCO British Champions Series, which concludes at Ascot, on 20 October