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Alex Hua Tian – Counting Down to Tokyo 2020

China’s Olympic equestrian eventing star, Alex Hua Tian, shares his experiences and excitement in the run-up to this year’s Olympic Games


The Tokyo 2020 countdown is very nearly up, with the opening ceremony just ten days away. For us at Pinfold Stables, the countdown to Tokyo started nearly five years ago, as Rio 2016 finished. For those of us competing at that level, we have to be planning and thinking that far ahead. To peak at the right moment in four years with the right horse takes significant planning, as well as careful, and at times bold, execution. It also takes considerable support and belief from owners, sponsors and the team to pull everything together – and that’s in a normal Olympic cycle! 

Although this will be my third Olympic Games, Tokyo will bring a significant “first”, as it will be my first time competing in a Chinese team. My teammates – Liang Ruiji, Bao Yingfeng and Sun Huadong – are all great horsemen and have made tremendous sacrifices, leaving friends and family as well as secure riding careers behind in China to pursue their Olympic dreams. What is particularly exciting is that these three riders not only represent China, as I do, but represent the development of Chinese equestrianism – which I don’t. These riders have come up through and been supported by the Chinese sports system, as well as competed solely in China until just a few years ago, whilst I have lived outside of mainland China since the age of seven. Although the final step to Olympic qualification had to be finished in Europe, it just demonstrates where Chinese equestrianism is now. It still has a long way to go, but there is serious promise!

As a team, and in comparison to the strong equestrian nations, we are still very green. Our best hope is to make audiences proud at home with a solid completion and a result that our sport can build on. And if that doesn’t happen? Well, it has certainly not been a wasted exercise. I constantly have to remind people that in just nine years, the Japanese eventing team went from crashing out of their first Games at London 2012 to flying to Tokyo as genuine medal contenders off the back of 4th at WEG. Things move quickly in Asia! We just need the opportunity to get the processes rolling.

My horses have started their seven days of “pre-export quarantine” and are just six days away from their flight to Tokyo. We are feeling well prepared and organized. However, there is still much to do and there are some big decisions to make! I have two horses qualified: Don Geniro, owned by Pippa Higgins and Pamela Dews, and PSH Convivial, owned by Vivian Gu. Both horses have had excellent preparation and deserve to go. Although I am normally quite decisive and trust my gut instinct, I still haven’t decided who I would like to take! My problem is that my gut is telling me that there is nothing between them… It is not a bad problem to have but it is starting to give me sleepless nights – and I am normally an excellent sleeper!

Thankfully, I have extremely supportive owners who have supported me making my decision. However, at this stage I am certain that my dithering is testing even their endless patience! 

This year, the team at Pinfold Stables have been exemplary. I really do think that we have the strongest group we have ever had, led as always by our yard manager, Kate Hort. The challenge of running a 25-horse yard, two busy international dressage riders called Sarah, as well as sending me to the Olympics, all during the pandemic, has stretched us at times – but nowhere near breaking point, I’m glad to report (although Kate might disagree!). Putting together a team with the personality, expertise and composure to do this has taken time and management, and I am very proud of what we have achieved regardless of what happens in Tokyo.


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