• Published 15th Mar 2012
  • 20,799 Views, 677 Comments

Wild, Sweet & Cool - Kwakerjak



Rainbow Dash wants to add strength training to her regimen by having Twilight Sparkle ride her.

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You Know It's Hard

“If you want to be an elite athlete, you have to accept that you’ll sometimes find yourself doing things that look ridiculous to everypony else.”

– Muscle Memory, Training for the High-Performance Flyer


Rainbow Dash stood on a cloud just above Ponyville’s central square, talking to herself. “Okay, this isn’t a big deal. Twilight’s my friend. She won’t think it’s weird, since she let me borrow that book in the first place, and the worst she can say is ‘No.’ I can do this. I mean, I will do this.” Apparently satisfied with her planned course of action, the pegasus glided down to the ground, landing just in front of the doorway of the large tree that housed both the town’s library and its resident librarian. She took a few more deep breaths and knocked on the door.

A few seconds later, the door opened, revealing the unicorn Rainbow Dash wanted to see. “Oh, hey, Dash,” Twilight Sparkle said, smiling. “Is something the matter?”

“Uh, no. I just... um, wanted to come in and talk about... er... something.”

“Okay...” the unicorn replied, her voice trailing off in mild suspicion. “You do realize that you don’t need to knock during the library’s operating hours, right?”

“Oh... right. I forgot.”

Twilight giggled. “Don’t worry about it. So, what’s up?”

“Well...” Rainbow Dash glanced around to make sure there weren’t any other ponies patronizing the library before continuing. “I kind of want to talk to you about that book I borrowed.”

Daring Do and the Windigo Prophecy?”

“No, the other one.”

“Other one? Oh, you mean the one Spitfire’s personal trainer wrote about exercise routines. What was his name again?”

“Muscle Memory.”

“Right, Muscle Memory. So, did you like it?”

Only a few months earlier, getting Rainbow Dash to admit she’d ever read (much less liked) any book in her lifetime would have been like pulling teeth, sans any local anesthetic. However, her introduction the fictional exploits of Daring Do had softened her opinion of the medium considerably. When combined with the fact that Twilight had managed to get fifth place in the Running of the Leaves simply by following the advice she’d found in a book, the blue pegasus simply didn’t have any reason not to give nonfiction a shot. “Uh, yeah. It’s given me some good ideas about how I can take my training to the next level.”

“That’s great! I’m sure you’ll be ready for the Wonderbolts in no time.”

“Yeah, well, actually, I’d kind of... like your help.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“Well, I usually practice on my own, but there’s this one strength-building technique the book talked about that I’d like to try. Then again, I guess it’s not so much a technique as it is a way of making my practices more effective. In any case, it sort of requires help from another pony.”

“And you’d like me to do it?”

Rainbow Dash averted eye contact with Twilight as she nervously dragged a blue hoof across the library’s floorboards. “Um... yeah... I guess....”

The unicorn, however, smiled. “I’d be happy to help you, but don’t you think that another pegasus would be a better coach?”

“Um, this isn’t exactly coaching. Well, I suppose it’s sort of like that, but you’d be a lot more hooves-on, I guess. More like a training partner, actually.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow skeptically. “Okay, now I’m even more certain that a pegasus would be more qualified than me, or maybe a griffon, or any sapient creature with wings—and before you bring up the ones I made for Rarity out of dew, keep in mind that making those takes so much energy that I’d be in no condition to work out.”

“I wasn’t going to bring that up.” Actually, Rainbow Dash hadn’t even taken it into consideration when she’d initially debated whether or not to even approach her magically inclined friend about this in the first place.

“Oh. Still, do you see my point? If you want help with your flying practice, you’re probably better off with someone who can fly.”

“Ordinarily, yes. But this isn’t exactly ordinary. What I mean to say is that I’ve got good reasons to think you’d be good at this.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Basically, the idea is to have somepony else handle the thinking for you while you concentrate on your physical activity.”

“I’m... not quite certain what you’re getting at. How is the fact that I’m smart supposed to make me more qualified than a pony who can actually fly?”

Rainbow Dash groaned. Why couldn’t she just spit it out? “It’s not because you’re smart, it’s because you’re a good driver.”

It took a few seconds before Twilight realized the pegasus was referring to the use of reins to steer other ponies, as one might do when riding in a carriage. “Huh? But Applejack has more experience doing that sort of thing.”

“She’s always busy doing stuff at Sweet Apple Acres. Besides, all of her experience is on the ground, not in the air.”

“In the air? Since when have I had that kind of experience?”

“You know... during the whole Discord thing. You managed to get Fluttershy to catch up to me, while dragging your balloon behind her, no less. If you can get her to perform like that, there’s no telling what I can do with your help.”

“Oh... okay.” Suddenly, the whole conversation made a lot more sense. “So, you want to pull my hot air balloon around to increase the resistance, then? That shouldn’t be too hard to coordinate.”

“Uh, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about here. That thing’s kind of bulky, and I need maneuverability if my practicing is going to do me any good.”

Twilight Sparkle was now thoroughly confused. “Then... what are you talking about?”

Rainbow Dash’s attempts at subtlety were failing like an Equestrian History test, so she decided to switch tactics entirely. “Um, is anypony else here? Because this is... well... a little embarrassing....”

“No, nopony else. It’s been a slow day, so I let Spike go gem hunting with Rarity.”

Great. There goes my excuse to procrastinate, the pegasus thought to herself. She decided to just be blunt and get it over with. “I... I need a rider.”

The librarian was taken aback. “A... a rider? Like, with a... saddle?”

“Yeah... not the kind of saddle that Rarity sells that are mostly for looks, but the real deal, like the kind search and rescue teams use to transport injured ponies out of the wilderness—except in this case, you’d be using a saddle specifically designed for riding pegasi.”

Twilight still seemed to be processing her friend’s request. “Rainbow Dash... I’ve never done anything like riding another pony before. I’m not certain I’m up to it...”

“But the way I see it, that’s actually a good thing! See, Muscle Memory says that the hard part about riding pegasi is that it’s totally different from riding other ponies, but you shouldn’t have that problem, since you don’t have to forget how to do it the normal way.”

“Um, Dash, that doesn’t make a lot of sense...”

“You’ll be fine! The saddle came with instructions on how to do everything.”

“‘Came with instructions’? Dash, are you saying you’ve already gotten one of those things?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, it wasn’t cheap, but Muscle Memory says that Spitfire totally swears by the brand.”

“I don’t know, this sounds kind of dangerous.”

“It’s completely safe. Well, I mean, maybe it’s technically not completely safe, but it’s close enough. The saddle’s designed to make sure you won’t fall off, even if I go upside down. Besides, you’re my friend. It’s not as though I’d let anything happen to you.”

Twilight, however, still seemed unsure. “It still seems pretty risky.”

“Maybe, but on the plus side, you’ll have the experience of flying with the future star of the Wonderbolts, and when I’m famous all over Equestria, I’ll make sure that everypony knows that you helped me get to where I am. I mean, where I will be.”

“How selfless of you,” came the flat reply of the current protégé of Princess Celestia.

Rainbow Dash seemed to sense that it was time to make a final push. “C’mon, if you do this for me, I’ll...” The pegasus wracked her brain, trying to figure out how best to sweeten the deal. “I’ll do some sort of library... book... thing for you.”

Twilight brought a hoof to her chin as she considered this offer. “Well, I have been meaning to convert the library from Hackney Decimal Classification to the Library of Canterlot’s system.”

“Great! I’ll do it.”

“It’s going to mean replacing the spine labels on every single book.”

“No problem.”

“And then reorganizing and reshelving every one of them.”

“Uh... that’s fine.”

“And I’m going to be really nitpicky, since this is what I actually get paid to do for a living.”

The thought of knowingly going into a situation where she’d be dealing with Twilight Sparkle’s perfectionism head-on sent a chill up Rainbow Dash’s spine, but she nodded anyway. “I... I can handle that... I think....”

“And we’d have to do it all during a single weekend.”

The pegasus swallowed hard. “That’s... okay. It’s fine. Sign me up.” Sometimes, sacrifices needed to be made in the pursuit of greatness.

Twilight was really taken aback by this—she’d only been half-serious, but it seemed as though Rainbow Dash was dead-set on getting her help. “This is really important to you, isn’t it?”

“Of course! This could give me the edge I need to really get the Wonderbolts’ attention.”

The unicorn sighed. “I’m still not entirely sure about this....”

Please?

——————————

A week later, the two ponies stood in an isolated field outside of Ponyville, with a small cart containing a large, unmarked cardboard box nearby. Getting the cart out here had taken some effort, since Rainbow Dash had insisted that the practice take place far from any roads, and the grassy field didn’t exactly have the most even surface for draft work, particularly for a pony who didn’t do that sort of thing on a regular basis. (When Twilight later asked why she couldn’t have just levitated it for her, the pegasus responded by smacking her hoof against her forehead.) Still, it was a very pleasant day; after all, the pair had chosen this day precisely because there weren’t any clouds or strong winds scheduled for the Ponyville area that afternoon.

Rainbow Dash was visibly excited, already doing small loops in the air. “This is going to be so awesome! You’re not going to regret this, Twilight.”

The unicorn seemed less inclined to share in this unbridled enthusiasm. “Why did I agree to do this again?”

“Because you’re my friend, and this is important to me, and I used the sad puppy face.”

“That was a rhetorical question, Rainbow Dash.”

“Whatever. The important thing is that I’m about to step up my training to a whole new level!”

“And I’m glad I found that spell.”

“A spell? For what?”

“For reducing my terminal velocity. Basically, it’s a variation on the standard levitation spell, used on the caster’s body to slow it down in freefall. You need to have a lot of raw magical power to even pull it off, but I’m almost certain that I can.”

“So if you fall, there’s no problems?”

“Uh, no. If I fell from the altitudes you do most of your tricks at, there’s no magic in the world that would let me walk away from the crash. Basically, this spell is the difference between ending up in a hospital bed, and ending up in a coffin... assuming I’ve got it right, that is.”

“Well, trust me, it’s all a mute point.”

“Moot.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s ‘moot point,’ not ‘mute point.’”

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter, because this saddle has a lifetime warranty.”

“Does it cover hospital bills, or just the cost of a new saddle?”

“Will you quit worrying? It’s going to be okay. Look, how about this... we won’t go higher than the deck at the top of your tree. You can’t be worried about falling from that far up, or you’d never use it, right?”

“Well, that sounds reasonable, I guess.”

“Awesome! Then let’s get started.”

Rainbow Dash opened the box to reveal her purchase: a brand new PommelHorse Four-Point Fitness Saddle System, made mostly out of Nagahyde, a magically reinforced synthetic material said to be as resilient as the skin of a long-extinct reptilian creature (according to the ad campaigns, anyway).

Twilight was stunned. “PommelHorse? Dash, that’s one of the most expensive brands of fitness gear on the market.”

“I know! This baby set me back almost 400 bits.”

“But... that’s so much money.”

“What do you want me to do? Risk your life by using substandard equipment? I don’t think so. Besides, Muscle Memory says this is the gear Spitfire uses, so it must be worth the money!”

“Well, I suppose I can’t object to you wanting me to stay safe.”

“Great! Then help me get this stuff on.”

——————————

Being much more complicated than the standard saddle, the PommelHorse Four-Point Fitness Saddle System was, unsurprisingly, quite a bit more difficult to actually saddle. Multiple times, Twilight found herself wondering how two ponies were expected to use this thing if one of them didn’t know how to use magic to levitate several items at once, since all of the extra straps meant that there was a lot of coordinated cinching needed to ensure that the saddle wasn’t crooked. Like every other saddle Twilight had ever seen, this one was situated on the back of the pony being ridden (or “flyer,” to use the appropriate term in this context). The stirrups for the “rider’s” hooves were notably less common, but then again, the vast majority of saddles sold in Equestria were used as decoration, rather than to provide a place for a rider to sit down.

However, what made this particular saddle really unusual was the addition of what appeared to be greaves just above the stirrups. A quick look at the surprisingly exhaustive instruction manual confirmed this to be the case: they were designed to completely cover the rear cannons of the rider from hock to hoof, firmly securing the rear legs to the flanks of the flyer with minimal sacrifices to the mobility of either pony. These comprised two of the four safety points mentioned in the product’s name, while the other two were found on the specially designed reins. Much like the traditional reins used for driving ponies before a cart (or in Twilight Sparkle’s case, the occasional hot air balloon), they were secured at the pasterns of the forelegs, but these had many more fail-safe measures than could ever be incorporated into a simple knotted rope. In short, the product designers at PommelHorse had done absolutely everything possible to ensure that the rider would stay exactly where he or she was supposed to be.

Just as importantly (in the opinion of whoever wrote the manual, at least) was the fact that the reins slid over the muzzle, instead of incorporating a bit, allowing the flyer to communicate more easily with the rider. Thus, when she’d finally gotten all of her gear on, Rainbow Dash was able to clearly voice her primary concern: “Do I look as ridiculous as I think I do?”

“Well, let’s just say I understand why you wanted to be far away from anypony else when we did this.”

The pegasus sighed. “The things I do for the Wonderbolts...”

Twilight chuckled. “It isn’t that bad. When your wings are down, they cover the greaves, so the saddle almost looks normal.”

“Almost?”

“Well, maybe if you’d gotten one in some shade of brown instead of black, it would look more inconspicuous.”

“Hey! This was the only color they had in my size.”

The unicorn sighed. “If it’s any consolation, I’m sure I’ll look just as silly once I’m all strapped in, too.”

“Speaking of which, we haven’t got all day.”

Somewhat reluctantly, Twilight Sparkle climbed onto her friend’s back. “Well, the saddle’s comfortable, at least,” she remarked absently as she secured her rear legs. “I think you’re definitely right about me being the most qualified.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, if I had to use my teeth to secure myself instead of magic, we’d be here all day, and I don’t think Rarity would ever agree to this, no matter how good a friend she was.”

Rainbow Dash chuckled in agreement. “Yeah, she’d definitely want to make accessories for this thing at the very least.”

“I’m pretty sure that no amount of accessorizing could move this out of ‘fashion disaster’ territory, at least by her standards.”

“Well, it’s not designed to look good—it’s designed to actually work.”

“Hey, I’m not complaining,” Twilight replied. “Are you sure you’re okay? Not having any trouble carrying my weight?”

“I can lift fully-grown ponies in my forelegs without any problems. Compared to that, carrying your weight on my back is easy.”

The violet unicorn secured the reins to her forehooves and levitated the instruction manual in front of her. “Okay, it says that we’re going to need to break this equipment in before doing advanced maneuvers, so let’s just take it slow for today.”

Rainbow Dash briefly considered objecting to this, but the thought of having to deal with excessive chafing squelched that idea. “Got it. We’ll do this nice and easy. You ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be. Take off!”

Grinning, Rainbow Dash flapped her wings and took to the air.