As September draws to a close, Freshers’ Week beckons. For most students a toga party is the most they’ll have to worry about, but others will be combining student life with competing. Find out how to cope...

“I’m a geek, I love coding statistical models,” says para dressage star Sophie Christiansen.

It’s an unlikely statement from a top-class rider, in a sport where hours in the saddle reap far more rewards than algebraic equations. But multi-medalled Sophie not only enjoyed studying for her masters in mathematics, she puts it to use in her part-time job as statistical analyst for Goldman Sachs. And Sophie isn’t alone.

While it’s far from the conventional route to Olympic success in a world where many leave school at 16, plenty of ambitious riders squeeze in an academic degree alongside a burgeoning competitive career — and experience three of the best years of their lives.

So how do you juggle your degree and horses?

1. Harry Meade, eventer

“Build up credit with your department, for when exams and events clash. I made an effort to have a high attendance rate — I barely missed a lecture and never handed in work late. When I was struggling to finish my dissertation at the same time as I was doing Luhmuhlen, my head of department wasn’t bothered because I had a good track record.”

2. Laura Tomlinson, dressage rider (pictured top)

“Be organised and disciplined so that you can enjoy uni life as well as training hard. And if you have to drive early the day after going out, don’t drink.”

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3. Sophie Christiansen, para dressage rider

“I had very good advice after I’d won two golds in Beijing. I was struggling with trying to make the most of being in the limelight and my adviser told me to go part-time and take five years to do my masters. I would have been too proud to take that step myself, but otherwise I wouldn’t have got a first-class degree.”

4. Georgie Wood, eventer

“I have to make use of every minute of the day. I make a strict time-plan every evening and stick to it really closely. I also make a revision timetable a couple of months before exams so that I can allow myself days off for eventing without feeling guilty.”

5. Emma Tivey, showjumper and eventer

“Be prepared to make sacrifices. I’ve qualified for the amateur eventer dressage championships at Blenheim, but it’s the same day as term starts, with important meetings. It’s frustrating, but you have to deal with the fact that you cannot do everything.”

Don’t miss the full feature about juggling your degree and horses in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (24 September 2015)