The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king’s warhorse started to limp, so the king sent doctors to examine it and they found there was nothing physically wrong with its leg. Then the king sent the Bodhisatta to investigate. He saw that the horse was imitating its trainer, who was disabled and walked with a limp. “It’s a case of bad company,” he told the king. “Get a good trainer, and the horse will be as good as ever.” The king replaced the horse’s trainer, and the problem went away.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The horse was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had been persuaded by a friend to skip his morning alms rounds and eat fancy meals at the monastery of Devadatta (the trainer was an earlier birth of him), a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. The Buddha told this story to the traitorous disciple and those who had reported his misbehavior so they knew that this disciple also kept bad company in the past.