November 20, 1999 – The Disney Channel Original Movie Horse Sense Premieres
“What has gotten into you? It’s as if you dropped any sense of responsibility.”
On November 20, 1999, the Disney Channel Original Movie Horse Sense premiered. It was followed by a sequel in 2001 called Jumping Ship. The film was directed by Greg Beeman, and written by Chad Hayes. It starred Andy Lawrence as Tommy, Joey Lawrence as Michael, Susan Walters as Jules, M.C. Gainey as Twister, Steve Reevis as Mule, and Freda Foh Shen as Arlene.
The film begins with life on Tommy Biggs’s family ranch, where his mom is making a hearty breakfast. He’s seen carving a whistle for his cousin Michael, and quickly heads with him mom to the kitchen, and admits that maybe he shouldn’t go as there’s a lot to worry about. His mom convinces him to go, although she’s hesitant to describe what Beverly Hills is really like. Meanwhile, in Beverly Hills, Michael Woods is only getting up from bed after noon, and heads to the kitchen where he grabs a wheat grass from his housekeeper Arlene. His mom reminds him that he needs to pick up his cousin, but he has a date with his new girlfriend. She reminds him that Tommy’s had a hard time after losing his father. He finally gets to class, and gets a poor score on his exam about land trusts. Unfortunately, after spending time with his girlfriend, he’s over 30 minutes late in picking up his cousin. While he does pick up Tommy, he spends most of his time flirting with his girlfriend on the phone and shopping. Michael’s parents are heading out of town, leaving the two of them alone. Once again, however, Michael blows Tommy off to spend time with his girlfriend. Tommy bonds with Arlene while Michael continuously blows him off. Arlene then lets him have it when Michael enters the kitchen one morning, but Michael promises to take Tommy to Disneyland that day. On the way out, Michael apologizes for bailing so many times, but soon gets a call from his girlfriend, and once again bails on Tommy, dropping him off at a toddler day care.
When he rushes away from meeting Gina, he ends up crashing his car; after this, he gets stuck in the kids’ playground looking for Tommy. Tommy in the end called Arlene to pick him up, and Michael arrives home to find a very hurt Tommy. The two have a huge fight, although Tommy covers for him in front of Michael’s parents. After Tommy goes to the airport, Michael arrives home that night to meet his very angry parents, as they found out the truth from Tommy’s mom. The situation gets worse when the cops show up, and his parents are sorely disappointed in him. The punishment they decide for him, however, is for him to grow up: work on Tommy’s ranch for the next month, and he will lose his trip to Europe if he slacks off just a little bit. Michael soon arrives in Montana, wearing a gaudy “western” outfit, much to the amusement of Tommy and his Aunt Jules. Tommy has more important things on his mind, however, when his mom gives him a sad look after her meeting at the bank. Arriving at the ranch, Michael meets Mule and Twister, two farmhands on the ranch; Mule is pretty easy-going, but Twister is much more critical of Michael. Tommy starts exacting his revenge on Michael the first night by telling him to stay up as late as he wants. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize he needs to get up at 4:30 in the morning, and is given a wake-up call in the form of a triangle. He blackmails Michael into getting up to work, much to Michael’s dismay.
Michael begins his first day on the ranch with no breakfast, as he’s not used to breakfast like Jules makes. Tommy then gives Michael some impossible chores to do, starting with shoveling manure from one area to another with nothing but a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Michael ends up falling into the manure at one point, and is embarrassed when he finds he could have used a tractor to move the pile. Later that evening, Tommy and Jules talk, and it is clear that their farm will be foreclosed, with everything sold at auction in four weeks. Jules thinks they should keep it from Michael, which Tommy agrees. Jules and Michael talk, and he asks about the treehouse in the corner, and Jules reveals that it was a project Tommy and his father started before he got sick. She gets visibly upset thinking about her husband, but Michael falls asleep before he can notice. The next day, Michael helps with the branding of the cattle, and Tommy gives Michael a horse called Slingshot, although Michael picks another horse, simply called Black. Black, however, is rather temperamental, and does not like to be kicked; after Michael kicks him, Black bucks him off into the pen with Goliath, the bull, who attacks him. Finally, Tommy, Michael, Mule, and Twister, and Jules head out to herd the cattle, with Michael having obvious trouble. That night, as they set up camp, Michael is given more tasks, including being on first watch for wolves. He is warned not to spook the cattle, and is given jerky and a flashlight for his trouble.
Michael calls his girlfriend while on watch, and ignores the sound of a wolf. He gets a call on his cell phone, which spooks his horse and the cattle, and they stampede. Michael gets stuck in a tree, and when the group finds him, they are all but disappointed in his antics. The next day, Michael is told that he has to repair all the fences that were destroyed in the stampede. Tommy tricks Michael into loading the poles for the fence into a broken down truck, and after learning the truth, he heads out to where Tommy is to confront him; he makes the situation much worse when he tells Tommy that he never cared about him, and that at the reunion he had no choice but to hang out with a “snot-nosed seven-year-old,” as he was so bored. As Michael lays about, he is confronted by Twister, who informs him that Tommy and Jules are going to lose their ranch, and no one told him because he wouldn’t give a damn anyway. Troubled by the news about the farm, Michael can’t sleep, and decides to try and take things a little more seriously, starting with riding Black and fixing the entire fence. One evening, he sees Tommy watching a herd of wild horses, and he apologizes for the cruel things he said, as they weren’t true. The two bond over talking about the wild horses, and Michael asks he never said anything about the ranch. Tommy admits that one by one bad things happened, and so they’re moving into one of his uncle’s old trailers, but why would Michael care, as he’s soon heading to Europe with his girlfriend. Michael rushes back home to call his father, asking for advice. Michael’s father admits that he knew and offered to help, but Tommy and Jules refused, as they didn’t want to take the easy way out, believing that rewards should come from their hard work.
The next day, Michael tries to convince Twister to start a pyramid scheme to save the ranch, although Twister sees right through the plan. Michael doesn’t understand the pride that Jules and Tommy have, and Twister explains that this situation happens to a lot of ranchers and farmers. Michael and Jules see Tommy working on the treehouse, and Michael decides to help finish it while Tommy is away at a family gathering. When Tommy gets home, he’s furious, as it was Tommy’s and his dad’s, not for Michael to touch, and starts to disassemble it. When Michael talks to his girlfriend, she is horrified to hear of all the things he has to do, and he is frustrated with her shallow personality. The next day as he works, he sees the wild horses run past, and Tommy runs to get him, as one of the wild horses, named Tommy Boy, is stuck in the mud, and is going to die if they don’t help. Michael helps Tommy get close to Tommy Boy, and Tommy helps guide the horse out, keeping him calm. After this, Michael quickly packs to head back to Beverly Hills, and apologizes once again for his poor behavior when Tommy visited. As Jules drives Michael to the airport, they are followed by Tommy on his horse, and he gives Michael a hand-carved whistle. Back in Beverly Hills, Michael heads to the race track again with his girlfriend and her father, and is reminded of all the wild horses on Tommy’s ranch. As they try to get a picture with the horse, it gets spooked, and Michael steps in to calm it down. Later, as they arrive at his house to take him to Europe, he hesitates, as he’s no longer convinced that he should go. He tells his girlfriend he’s not going, sells his car, and liquidates some of the assets in his trust fund.
Back in Montana, Tommy and Jules are packing up the house, when Michael arrives, giving them a check to help them save the ranch, but Jules turns him down. Michael claims that it’s an investment, but Jules thinks that it’s time to move on. She reassures him that they will be fine, but Michael isn’t convinced. The auction for the items in the house begins the next day, and everyone is depressed. As he helps Tommy pull out a trunk, they talk about school, and Michael realizes that his class on land trusts could help save the farm. Michael talks with his father, then heads into town on Black, stopping by the bank. He convinces the bank that Jules’ ranch qualifies for a land trust, and heads back to the ranch. He ends the auction, and tells Jules that he got them a 30-day extension, as they can be certified as a land trust, and their debt will be cleared. They won’t own the land, but they will be paid to stay on the land and manage it. Jules and Tommy let Michael stay with them as long as he would like, and the film ends with Tommy asking Michael to work on the treehouse.