Disney Channel debuted two horse movies within one year’s time. One of them, Horse Sense, is a longtime favorite of mine. The other, Ready to Run, is one I don’t remember airing on Disney Channel once. To be honest, I didn’t think this movie was one of my favorites at first. But after watching Ready to Run near the end of this DCOM journey, I really appreciate this film and what it offers the Disney Channel Original Movie canon:
Corrie Ortiz’s father died years ago while racing his horse. For that reason, Corrie’s mom doesn’t want her to be a jockey. Instead, Corrie works as an exercise rider for Mr. Machado, whose horses have a reputation for losing. Machado’s archenemy, Mr. Garris, bullies him over his losses. Because Garris is so obsessed with winning, he is trying to sell a lackluster horse named Thunderjam (TJ). When Corrie hears him say he’d trade the horse for a bag of peanuts, she makes this offer in earnest and gets to take the horse home. Moody, the jockey Machado has hired to race him, saves Thunderjam’s life during a barn fire (set by Garris). Moody burns his hands in the process and cannot race TJ. Corrie’s mom finally allows her to become a jockey, and she wins. You get all the elements of an early DCOM, particularly a driven young woman following her dreams. Corrie’s mom and Mr. Machado also get together, and their romance overall is very sweet. Krystle Po, whom I can’t seem to find anywhere, brought such spirit, determination, and wide-eyed wonder to the role of Corrie. Fitting for a DCOM that debuted during “Get in the Game Week” on Zoog Disney. How’s that for some High School Musical foreshadowing?
Horse Sense is another special equine DCOM, and I love it for the Lawrence brothers, first and foremost. Joey is Michael Woods, a rich Beverly Hills college student who lives in his parents’ palatial residence. Michael’s cousin Tommy Biggs (Andy) resides in Montana on a ranch, and like Corrie, lost his father. I know many of my readers are familiar with the story: Michael treats Tommy like garbage on the boy’s first visit to Los Angeles. Tommy has never seen the ocean. He has never been to Disneyland. Michael fails at taking him to do these things, always distracted by his girlfriend, who is also rich and well-connected. The horse part comes into play when Michael must pay for his actions and lend his aunt (Tommy’s mom) some labor on the ranch. He learns that his family there will lose their home if he doesn’t come up with a solution, and Michael finally starts to care about people other than himself.
Both films approach horses in different ways, but the main characters have strong bonds with them. The horses in Ready to Run communicate with Corrie because she has a special family gift, which helps TJ a lot in his race. One horse is voiced by Sinbad! Tommy in Horse Sense hates horse racing and believes in letting the animals run free. He and his late father named all the horses on their ranch. TJ needs good music to win his race; Tommy’s horses need affection and gentleness, especially Tommy Boy, the horse that gets stuck in the mud and might die. (Don’t worry; he was okay.) There were numerous children/family horse movies in the 2000s, and I enjoy both of Disney Channel’s entries in this category. Horse Sense was written by Chad and Carey Hayes, directed by Greg Beeman of Brink! (and many other greats). Ready to Run was directed by Duwayne Dunham and written by John Wierick — both of them worked on Double Teamed, too. If you grew up riding horses, or simply loved them when these movies came out, I’d love to hear your thoughts!