Busy schedules and big dreams: How do two young dressage riders make it all work

Equestrain team riders Nora Svensk, 24, and Riia Tuominen, 20, have a lot on their plates as they both compete in dressage, study and work at the same time. We asked them how they manage it all.

Riia Tuominen lives in Germany, where she moved from Finland when she was 17 years old. She  competes in intermediate classes with her horse, works at the stables during weekdays and studies international business administration. Her school, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Porvoo, Finland, allowed her to complete the first year of studies online in order for her to be able to compete and chase her dreams of an international dressage career. 

Nora Svensk lives in Helsinki, Finland, and has two horses and a little terrier puppy to take care of. Her dressage dream for the near future is making it to the U25 national team. She is finishing up her bachelor’s thesis in international business at Turku University and working part time as a sales advisor. She works a few shifts per week and typically spends multiple hours at the stables every day. Doing a lot of her school work remotely allows more flexibility in her schedules.

Being a competitive rider requires prioritization and planning ahead.

“My life isn’t the most typical for a twenty-year-old. Summer weekends are spent in competitions, and weekdays are for training,” Riia says, but doesn’t feel sorry for that: “I love my everyday life, and in my opinion, people shouldn’t live for the weekends but for that daily life.”

Not everyone in their twenties spends their weekends competing and weekdays doing all the right things to be ready for those competitions, but both Riia and Nora say they would not change a thing. Being a competitive rider requires prioritization, but both riders feel like it’s what they’ve chosen for themselves and that they are not really giving up on anything. 

“The most important thing is to consider your own priorities, and figure out what is your top priority”, Nora explains. For her, spending her summer competing has been a priority over taking an internship position for that time period to further her studies. 

Sometimes school work and other responsibilities affect Nora’s time spent on horses, but a good team helps out when needed. She plans her riding sessions with her coach according to her work schedule and her coach regularly helps her figure out the next appropriate steps to achieve her goals. Nora also has her parents to help out with the horses on busier days. 

Riia loves routines and likes to plan her schedule for the upcoming week every Sunday. She makes a plan for every day and feels like that has helped a lot in getting everything done. She also mentions that everyone should find the best habits for themselves, whether it’s to do lists or something else.

“I have built a routine for myself where I am efficient and working towards my dreams, and that is important to me. Maybe I see friends and celebrate less often, but it feels more special when it occasionally happens”, Riia sums it up. 

Wellbeing is a crucial part of everyday routines for a competitive rider.

Both Nora and Riia have noticed how much taking care of one’s wellbeing affects everyday life and riding. “I have noticed that if I am really tired physically or mentally, riding rarely goes well”, Riia mentions.  

When asked about favourite tips on wellbeing, both mention sleeping at least eight hours a night and having enough days off spent on relaxing activities.

“I am so much more inspired and motivated when my everyday life isn’t too exhausting”, Riia says.

Nutrition also plays a big part in wellbeing for both riders. Riia loves cooking and often prepares snacks for the upcoming week on Sundays. For Nora, eating breakfast is something she has had to learn, a cup of coffee in the morning is just not enough before a riding session. 

“You need to input energy to use energy, or else it will run out”, she explains. 

Even with a busy schedule, one should figure out how to add some exercise to the mix. Nora and Riia both manage to do this and have found Equestrain workouts for riders beneficial in many ways, helping both in the saddle and in overall wellbeing. 

“These are my three pillars of support: proper nutrition, recovery, and then the workouts. They are what keeps me in shape and helps me perform as a rider, also assisting the horse in performing well”, Riia says. 

Just like Nora puts it: “The important thing is to remember why you do what you do.”

Nora has a few tips regarding time management and exercise. She loves to do her weekly cardio session watching a Netflix show at the same time, so the time spent on Netflix is more beneficial. She also likes to go to the gym bringing some friends or her sister with her to make it more social and fun.

Riia used to do crossfit and often felt sore, but nowadays she does more mobility workouts and discovered pilates through Equestrain workouts. She says she feels more flexible and relaxed in her body now. She thinks it’s important to listen to your body and plan your exercise around that. 

“There are so many different ways to train, so you don’t have to do the same as everyone else”, she points out. 

Both riders agree especially on one thing: loving what you do plays a massive part in managing everyday life. Sometimes plans change and things get hectic, but having that will to work it out and keep moving forward makes it easier.