Filippa Norrman

Balancing Studies & Competitive Riding

Interview with team rider Filippa Norrman about her life as a competitive dressage rider and a university student.


Mon 4 Sep - 23

About Filippa

  • Name: Filippa Norrman 

  • Studying: Master of Science in Engineering, specializing in energy systems

  • Horses: H.S Indigo, Dasras, Candies Delight, Bevinos 

  • Discipline: Dressage

  • Instagram: @filippanorrman


It's a beautiful late summer day as we head out to meet Filippa Norrman, a competitive dressage rider, student at Uppsala University, and also one of Maya Delorez's first team riders. The winding final stretch of the road leading to the farm is lined with pastures of grazing horses, and behind the house, we catch a glimpse of a sparkling lake. To say that we're greeted by stunning views when we step out of the car would be an understatement. We start making our way towards the stable, where we're met by Filippa and her mom. Filippa's horse Indigo, a 14-year-old gelding, is waiting in the stables. Together, they've had a busy summer, competing at the U25 European Championships in Hungary and finishing third in the Lövsta Future Challenge U25. 
The fall semester has just begun for Filippa, who's now in her final year as a student at Uppsala University. She's got a semester of classes ahead and then another one for her thesis before she can proudly call herself an engineer with a specialization in energy systems. 

"Studying engineering with this particular focus means I'm specializing in our various energy supply systems, like bioenergy, nuclear power, wind power, solar power, and hydroelectric power. The first three years of the program are pretty set, but when we're in our master's, we get to choose our specific focus." 

Filippa shows us her notes from this week's lectures, each page covered with numbers from start to finish. Continuing her education has always been a clear choice for her, even though it has been challenging at times.

"I always knew that I wanted to continue my studies. I have dyslexia, which has made school quite tough for me. I've always needed to study a lot to keep up – something that comes in handy today. When I started at university, I was already used to doing a lot of reading, which is something everyone needs when they start university. Taking detailed notes during lectures has become a part of my study technique, and it works for me."

Combining her studies with her riding pursuits is something Filippa has been used to since her teenage years when she attended a sports-oriented high school. This made the transition to studying at university much smoother. 

"I attended Celsius School, a sports-oriented high school in Uppsala, and during that time, I learned how to balance my studies with the sport. I was already part of the national team and had four horses – I was already 'in the groove'. After high school, I even tried studying math for half a year to see how that would go, and it worked out well!"

Filippa's love for horse riding began when she was really young. Part of it was because her mom was into horses, and part of it was thanks to her riding school. But when she turned 13, her journey into dressage riding really kicked off. After taking over her mom's horse, Filippa realized that she wanted to be part of the national team – and she really proved that "speaking your dreams into existence" isn't just a saying. Their progress was lightning-fast, and in just two years, they went from beginner level to winning a bronze medal at the Junior Swedish Championships. 


"When the time came and we unfortunately had to put my pony to sleep, I started riding my mom's horse. She used to be a show jumper but was maybe a bit too nervous for that, so I switched to dressage with her. It went really well, and I got to ride for the junior national team. We even won a bronze medal at the Junior Swedish Championships together." 

After high school, Filippa worked with horses full-time, including at places like Lövsta, renowned Swedish equestrian center and stud farm, and with elite dressage rider Jeanna Högberg.But she realized that working with horses full-time might not be the best way to support her riding career in the long run. 

"I learned a ton during my time at Lövsta and with Jeanna, and I carry that with me in my riding career. But I also realized it might be tough for me to make a living solely from riding and still focus on my own progress. I'd have to buy and sell horses to make ends meet financially. And I mean, Indigo and Dasras are my best buddies, and I've had them for years. That's why I chose this path of going to university – so I can afford to keep my horses and not have to buy and sell them. Instead, I want to invest in training them to be the best they can be." 

To fully commit to her riding career while studying might seem like an extra challenge in an already busy schedule, but Filippa sees it as an advantage. 

“Riding helps me plan and organize my time better”

"It can sometimes feel like school becomes the most important thing in your life. So, if you do badly on a test, it feels like the end of the world. But since I have my horses, it's not the end of the world if I mess up a test – because maybe I'll do really well at a competition, or vice versa, of course. Plus, I've noticed that riding helps me plan and organize my time better. Especially during exam periods when I have three exams in a week – you can't procrastinate. I know I can't study endless hours, so when I am at school, I make sure to make the most of my time. Besides, it's super nice to go to the stable after a long day of studying and ride. It's a much needed breather."

Filippa's Tips for Those Who Want to Combine Studies and Riding Competitively:

  1. Start by taking a standalone course to see how it works. You don't need to commit to a five-year program right away if you're unsure. Give it a try!

  2. Remember, there will always be more chances if you happen to miss an exam, but you can't redo a specific training or competition. So, don't stress too much if you need to retake a test – new opportunities will come your way.

  3. Since the pandemic, there are plenty of YouTube videos and recorded lectures available. Reach out to your teachers to see if there are any recorded materials.

  4. Don't hesitate to offer and accept help from your study buddies. 

  5. I always try to study whenever I have time. Often, I study in the car while my mom drives us to and from practices and competitions – you just have to create time for it. 

Balancing studies and riding competitively takes planning, setting priorities, and accepting that you might miss out on some typical student activities. But one thing Filippa doesn't compromise on is spending time with friends and building relationships. 

"It's been important for me to hang out with friends, build relationships, and find study buddies. It helps you through your studies, too. It's hard to be completely on your own, especially when you're away at competitions and training. It means a lot to me to be able to rely on friends for notes or other support. I absolutely make time for friends, but not every day. It's all about prioritizing and planning. Of course, you might have to skip some things, like parties and such, but I see it as a trade-off for experiencing other things, like competing in the European Championships."

After completing her studies, Filippa envisions continuing her riding career for as long as she enjoys it and has the drive. And what about her career as an engineer? Filippa sees significant potential within the equestrian world. 

"As long as I find it enjoyable and have the motivation, I'll continue to give my all with the horses. It would be super cool to work in the equestrian industry and combine my job with my passion, perhaps working on energy efficiency within equestrian facilities. I believe there's a lot to be done in that area. But I'm prepared to work a few years and gain more experience first." 

Four Quick Questions 

Which three emojis describe Indigo best? 🦄 🔥 🤩
The last thing I think about before entering the arena is...?
With Indigo, it can be a bit challenging to enter the arena, so I always plan out the exact path we should take. Once we're in, I can relax and focus on doing our best.
On a Friday evening, I prefer to spend my time...?
Either at a competition or at home on the couch with some tasty snacks. 🍉🍓🫐🍬
Right now, I'm most looking forward to...?
The upcoming fall competitions, the last two qualifiers in the Lövsta Future Challenge, and also – my final year as a student.