Credo: Jenny Pitman

Novelist and retired race-horse trainer, 6

Interview,Adam Jacques
Sunday 29 March 2009 02:00 BST

I believe...

I was viewed by others in the industry as a source of amusement until I became the first woman to win the Grand National [in 1983, with Corbiere]. It surprised a lot of people; it felt extraordinary.

Jockeys are under an enormous amount of pressure to come up with results, and it's hurting their health. They have to be so light [to remain competitive] that some live on chocolate and Red Bull.

Women expect far too much today. Where they've got the idea that they can have kids, then expect companies to fit in around their family, I don't know; it's economic madness. There was no flexi-time when I was working.

Seeing my son, Mark, win the Cheltenham Gold Cup made me feel higher than ever. But when we went racing, I was the trainer and he was the jockey; it wasn't mother and son. He always said I was harder on him than the other jockeys. I expect it left him with a lot of hang-ups.

I'd rather be respected than liked. I've clashed with a lot of people in the racing industry, and been called a lot of names, but as long as my horses liked me, that's all that mattered.

We treat animals better than the NHS treats people. When my dad was in hospital two years ago I was appalled by the lack of hygiene and care he received. [He died after being infected by a superbug.]

Horses have an extraordinary sensitivity. One of my most humbling experiences was to get kids with learning difficulties to stroke the horses at the stables. It had a tremendous impact.

Going to watch the Grand National should be on your list of things to do before you die. The atmosphere is electric and it's a tough race – the fences are big and it's a bloody long way round – so it's great to watch. The Grand National runs on Saturday

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