Young Rider Spotlight: Andrew Chang and Derek Chang

By Emily Stoermer
HITS Horse Shows

Andrew Chang and his brother Derek Chang often get mistaken for twins, but are, in fact, 14 months apart. Both have developed a keen interest in show jumping, thanks to their mother, Sarah Chang, who emigrated from Korea to the United States when she was in school and wanted her children to experience horseback riding, which she enjoyed growing up in Seoul.

Riding was not considered a true sport in Korea at the time, and has only since grown in popularity. Sarah Chang enjoyed trail rides and riding for leisure. That’s how it started for her boys, too, but as they continued to ride, they began to take the sport more seriously. Now both are dedicated equestrians who make time in their demanding college schedules to compete regularly at HITS Thermal, with an aim to one day participate in the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix.

Andrew Chang, 20, said his work in the ring “recently started clicking.”

(c) ESI Photography
Andrew Chang jumps to win first place in the Desert Circuit III $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic High, presented by Vetera(R) XP Vaccines.

That may be, as he was named this year’s Horseware Ireland Grand Circuit Champion in the Amateur-Owner Jumper High division, as well as the Equine Couture/TuffRider Mid-Circuit and Second Half Circuit Awards in the same division. Chang also won the $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic High, presented by Vetera(R) XP Vaccines, in Desert Circuit III.

Chang contributes part of that to his horse, Contact, a 17.3 hand Dutch Warmblood gelding.

“My horse is a 9-year-old now. He’s starting to mature. He’s really careful, has a lot of skills,” said Andrew. “I got him when he was 7. He’s matured like crazy, this year especially.”

Chang said what he likes, is that his horse is one that “can take a joke.”

“If I kind of mess up, he’ll pretend like it never happened. He’s a good sport,” he said. “I’m not really afraid to make mistakes, so I can be confident going into the ring, knowing if I make a mistake I can complete the course. He’s also careful, so it’s a nice dichotomy that makes him a great horse.”

Chang also appreciates the emotional lessons that come from being around a horse.

“I just like working with another being,” he said. “I like the aspect where you can’t control everything. I think that has really helped me develop as a person – to let go when something doesn’t go as planned, adapt, and not get so upset about it.”

Both brothers attend the University of Southern California in downtown Los Angeles, where Andrew is a sophomore and Derek, 19, is a freshman.

"Some people think we're the same person,” said Andrew. “We do everything the same; every step we do the same.”

Derek also competed in the jumpers this circuit.

When they first started riding and showing regularly, in their mid-teens, they practiced and competed in eventing, but Andrew convinced him they should switch to jumping, Derek said.

(c) ESI Photography
Andrew Chang in a presentation photo after winning the $10,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic High, presented by Vetera(R) XP Vaccines.

“We showed cross-country for two or three years, then moved over to the jumper world,” Derek said. “My brother said we should move. I said, ‘I’m for it.’ We didn't like the dressage.”

Derek said school has been his priority this year, as he’s just started college, but as he gets into the swing of things, he’s now able to focus more once again on riding.

“The beginning of first semester, I think I was focused on just adjusting to school. Now, I’m picking up on the riding more again,” he said.

Andrew said he’s grateful his mother wanted them take riding lessons.

“She wanted to share that experience with us,” he said. “She’s really caring.”

But while in school full time, spending eight weeks at the circuit isn’t feasible. Andrew organized his spring semester so his classes in international relations and business are Monday through Wednesday, freeing him up to attend HITS Thermal on the weekends and takes his homework with him so he can balance competing and his studies. Derek has classes Monday to Thursday, so he has less time in the ring.

Andrew Chang said he’s not sure what his equestrian plans are post-college, but in the short-term both brothers plan to come back to HITS in the fall to compete once again, at the National Sunshine Series.

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