• Published 21st Aug 2021
  • 774 Views, 99 Comments

Letting Go Of The Reins - applebatofalltrades

Applejack's rodeo career takes a turn. She must learn to adapt to her new life and the challenges that come with it.

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If it had been at any other place, one could have easily mistaken Apple Bloom for a kid on a sugar high. She buzzed in place, practically vibrating with excitement as she squealed, “Today’s the day!”

Applejack grinned and nodded at her sister, who clearly did all she could to keep herself from jumping on Applejack. Even if that included having Apple Fritter physically restrain her with a not-so-subtle arm around the shoulder. Applejack couldn’t help but laugh. “Yup! I really appreciate y’all coming to help.”

“Oh, hogwash,” Granny interjected, waving her hand dismissively. “Of course we gon’ come help you.”

“I’m just glad you’ve got actual clothes on, cuz,” Fritter teased, making Applejack stick out her tongue.

The blonde looked down at herself. Her favourite pair of jeans and a blue button-up replaced the hospital gown she’d grown so used to wearing. It felt so good to finally be wearing her own clothes. Applejack rubbed her hands on the denim of her jeans and nodded. “Yeah, me too!”

And we got you a special surprise,” Apple Bloom added in a stage whisper. “But, it’s a surprise. Like I said. So you’ll have to wait’n see what it is once we get ya all packed up.”

Apple Fritter ruffled the hair on the top of Apple Bloom’s head and gently shoved her away toward Big Mac, who was busy putting Applejack’s belongings in a box. “Go on and help yer brother, Bloom,” she instructed Apple Bloom, who nodded and scampered off to help Big Mac. Apple Fritter watched her with an amused smile before turning back to Applejack. “She’s real excited for you to come closer to home, cuz.”

“Yeah, I know,” Applejack replied with a nod as she watched Apple Bloom hold her hands out to Big Mac, who shrugged and dropped the box into her arms. She held back a chuckle as Apple Bloom almost fell over with the weight, but managed to stay upright with only the most obvious of struggling expressions on her face as they both left the room together. “I’m excited, too. I’ve been thinkin’ about today for so long and now that it’s happenin’, it feels… I dunno, it feels fake.”

“Too good to be true, cuz?” Fritter offered with an understanding smile.

Applejack snorted. “Yeah, a little bit. Feels like the nurse is gonna come back and tell me that I need to wait another week or somethin’. Hell, even the doctor himself.” As if on command, the door opened to reveal Nurse Gentle along with Doctor Steady Ease. They walked into the room together, each with a smile on their face. Applejack clamped her mouth shut, but not before asking, “Y’all ain’t here to give me bad news, are ya?”

“No,” Doctor Steady responded, “no, we’re just here to review the next steps for you. No bad news. This all your family here?”

“Sure is,” she confirmed with a nod and gestured to Apple Fritter, who sat on the edge of the bed. “This here’s my cousin Apple Fritter, she’s pretty much like another sister to me.”

At her mention, Apple Fritter stuck out a hand to the pair, firmly shaking each of their hands. “Nice to meet ya! I trust y’all have been takin’ great care of my cousin.”

The doctor seemed impressed by Fritter’s handshake as he nodded. “She’s been very cooperative, so that definitely makes our job easier.”

“But they have been takin’ great care of me,” Applejack added, much to the humble doctor’s dismay. She turned to him and the nurse with a soft smile. “I just wanted to say thanks. I know it’s your job, but y’all have been more than just medical staff to me. Ya really helped me start on this road.”

“Aw, well we are certainly going to miss you,” Steady admitted, returning the look. He pursed his lips into a tighter version of his smile. “But, that being said, we are happy you don’t need us anymore.”

Gentle shook her head slightly, but the smile on her face revealed her amusement. “Poor tact aside, he is right.”

“I’ll definitely miss y’all as well.” Applejack noticed her family staring at the scene, each with wide teary eyes. She snorted and rolled her own eyes, poorly hiding the moisture on them as she not-so-surreptitiously wiped the palm of her hand along them. “C’mon, get on with it.”

“Aw, are ya cryin’, cuz?” Fritter teased in a friendly manner, though Applejack didn’t take any offense by it. “Thought you were chompin’ at the bit at the idea of gettin’ outta here.”

“Har-har.” Applejack shook her head in mock disappointment at the horse pun. “I ain’t cryin’, and I have been ready to leave, but it’s still a bit bittersweet. All the staff here’s been so great, but I’m ready to move on.”

“That’s what we like to hear,” Steady interjected. “And we will stay in touch to make sure everything is alright with your recovery at the rehab centre.”

“The staff there is amazing,” Gentle added. “And the best in the tri-city area in rehab. Plus, I hear it’s close to home?”

“That’s right.” Granny rested her hand on Applejack’s and rubbed her fingers on her gently. “We live just outside the city, so’s just about an hour’s drive.”

Applejack licked her lips. “And my stay there. How long’ll it be?”

“Six to eight weeks,” Steady responded. “I’m sure it’ll be six for you, though. You’ve already made so much progress.”

“And hey, you wanna show your family what you’ve learned?” Gentle prodded with a smile. “You did it perfectly this morning, or so I hear.”

Applejack grinned eagerly and nodded. Her eyes searched the room for her wheelchair, but it was nowhere to be found. “Uh, how am I supposed to show ‘em without—”

“—Without this?” Apple Bloom burst through the door in a clearly practiced manner. She wore a giant smile on her face as Big Mac leaned against the doorframe with a pleased grin on his. In front of her, Apple Bloom pushed a shiny wheelchair in front of her, one very different from the hospital chair Applejack had grown used to.

Applejack gaped. “Is that…”

“Your new wheelchair!” Apple Bloom squealed, running around the chair to hug Applejack, who barely managed to hug her back. “Do ya like it? I know orange is your favourite colour, so I told ‘em to make it orange for ya!”

The wheelchair practically glowed. The footrests were solid, not foldable like the hospital chair, and the backrest ended lower. Black wheels against orange steel seemed to invite Applejack to its thickly padded seat. “I love it,” she whispered, tingling with a healthy mix of excitement and dread. It was all happening, somehow both agonizingly slow and frighteningly fast. Her eyes drifted to her family members, all smiling eagerly at her. “Thank you so much, y’all. I… I love it.”

Fritter thwacked Applejack with a firm punch to the shoulder and grinned. “Hey, we weren’t about to let ya sit in those uncomfy hospital chairs, cuz.” Her eyes shot to the medical staff. “Uh, no offense.”

“Hey, none taken.” Steady laughed and shrugged. “They’re not meant for constant use, just practicality.”

“Hey, Bloom, can you lock it?” Applejack asked, slowly sitting up with a grunt of effort. Her sister nodded and did what she was asked to do. Applejack carefully moved her legs one at a time off the edge of the bed and rolled the wheelchair into position. “Alright, one of y’all has gotta spot me ‘cause I’ve only done this by myself once,” she admitted. Fritter stood next to Applejack, just in case.

Applejack exhaled sharply and glanced at Steady and Gentle. They nodded at her encouragingly. She returned the nod and put a hand on the armrest closest to her then pivoted into the seat. Grinning widely, she moved her legs into position and got comfortable on the seat. It was squishy and a lot more comfortable than the old one.

“Hey, you did it!” Gentle cheered with a clap. “See, I told you you could.”

The blonde sheepishly rubbed her neck. “Well, I never exactly said I couldn’t. All I said was I didn’t wanna mess up in front of my family,” she explained, taking the time to roll the wheels and get used to the feeling. It was definitely lighter than the hospital chair, and a lot more comfortable, though since the backrest was lower, she felt a bit less balanced, but it’d just take some getting used to. “This is real nice. How much did this cost ya?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it, girlie,” Granny Smith assured. “What’s important’s that ya get what ya need and get the best we can get ya.”

“I sure hope it wasn’t a lot.” Applejack frowned and looked at her lap. “I–I know we’re a bit tight on money as it is and all of this—”

“Hey, don’t worry ‘bout it, cuz,” Apple Fritter interrupted, putting a hand on her shoulder. Applejack looked at her with furrowed eyebrows, but Fritter just kept a gentle smile. “We all got your back, okay? If you really wanna worry, you can worry ‘bout it later. For now, just focus on what ya gotta focus on.”

“Speaking of,” Steady cut in, “mind if we talk about your next steps now? Just to review and make sure everything is all worked out.”

Fritter patted Applejack on the shoulder, then walked over to Apple Bloom and muttered something to her. Apple Bloom nodded and waved at Applejack before leaving with her cousin, stepping past Big Mac, who stood awkwardly in the doorway, clearly unsure of what to do.

“Sure,” Applejack agreed, spinning around in her chair to face the doctor. “It’s alright if my brother stays for this, right?”

“Of course.”

At that, Applejack waved Big Mac in. The tall man shut the door behind him and stood next to Granny Smith, who sat down on a nearby chair. “Alright, so what’s the plan?” Applejack asked.

“Well, you’re going to be relocated to the rehabilitation facility in Canterlot,” Steady started, handing Applejack a piece of paper. “Your family opted to take you there themselves, which is fine. You’ll stay there for six weeks doing occupational and physical therapy.”

“So, they’re gonna teach me how to be a person again?” Applejack asked bemusedly.

“They’ll teach you how to be as independent as possible,” Gentle put in. “What you will and won’t be able to do in that time depends on you. But you’re a strong girl.”

Applejack bit her lip and nodded. She wasn’t sure if she was the right type of strong.

“Your family and friends will, of course, be able to be there to support you,” Steady went on, “but you’ll have to check with them to make sure what their visiting policies are. Basically, they’ll teach you everything else you need to know about how to manage your life in and out of your wheelchair. How to dress yourself, how to manage your bathroom usage, how to get up and down ramps, how to traverse difficult terrain. All of that.”

That was a lot of things. But they were all things she had to learn, and if what her family had always said about her was true then Applejack was a quick learner. With a slight frown, she responded, “Uh, yeah, okay.”

A hand fell on Applejack’s shoulder. Apple Fritter stared questioningly at her. “Hey, cuz, you alright? Ya seem a bit… well, overwhelmed.”

Applejack blinked twice before nodding slowly. “Uh, no—err, I mean yeah, I’m fine. Just tryin’ to figure it out in my head.”

“It sounds like a lot,” Steady continued softly, “but a lot of it ties in with itself. You’re already great in the chair, and you’ve proven that you’re more than dedicated. You’ll be okay.”

Applejack shrugged. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right…” She rubbed her fingers on the wheels’ grip, feeling the divots and the curves. “Well, I ain’t got much of a say in it, do I?” Though the words she spoke could have been a joke, the way she said them allowed awkwardness to hang in the air. Applejack sucked in air through her teeth and dismissively shook her head. “Bad joke. Let’s just get goin’.”

“D’ya have all yer things?” Granny Smith asked, slowly getting up with the help of Big Macintosh. “Don’t wanna forget nothin’.”

After a quick look around and a check pat on her pocket, Applejack nodded. “Yup, should have everything. Ain’t like I had a whole lot to begin with,” she pointed out with a grin.

She let her eyes linger around the room one last time. The painting on the wall seemed a lot higher up from her seat in the wheelchair. A lot smaller, too. The herd of mustangs galloped freely, their manes blowing in the wind. The leader still reminded her of Barley. Brown and white and beautiful. Applejack wheeled herself toward the door.

She’d seen this hall so many times. The fluorescent, sterile lights that bugged her so much had become so normal to her that she hardly even noticed them anymore. She looked up at them until they burned into her retinas.

Apple Bloom scampered up next to Applejack and walked next to her. “How’d ya manage to stay in here for so long without dyin’ of boredom?”

Applejack glanced up at her sister—which felt incredibly wrong to do as the big sister—and grinned widely. “Well, it was either that or stay on the ground in the ring.”

The younger girl’s smile fell a bit. “That was scary.”

Applejack slowed down a bit before remembering that she needed to keep pushing herself. She gave a long push and caught back up to Apple Bloom, who didn’t seem to notice the way Applejack had lagged slightly behind. “I know. But hey, I’m alright, right?”

Apple Bloom nodded. “Yeah, I’m glad you are.”

As she pushed along, Applejack searched for a change of topic. “You been practicin’ your events with those tips I gave ya?”

“Uh, no, not really,” Apple Bloom admitted.

“What? Why not?”

The redhead shrugged. “I dunno. I’ve been busy, I guess…”

“Well, that’s alright then.” Applejack frowned as Apple Bloom sped up her pace to walk ahead of her sister. She really really hoped that Apple Bloom wasn’t neglecting her events because of her.

Once they finally reached the waiting room, Applejack noticed that the physiotherapist she had had a few sessions with, Stretch Horizon, was there, too. He waved proudly at Applejack, who shot him a smile back.

“Nice wheels!” he called out to her. “Heck of a lot comfier than those hospital chairs, eh?”

“Absolutely,” Applejack agreed. “And a lot easier to move in, too.”

“Oh yeah, they’re a lot lighter and a lot more ergonomic.” He approached her and held out a hand, which she high-fived. “You’re moving around like a pro.”

“Thanks.” She followed the group out of the automatic doors. Applejack squinted at the strangely harsh natural light. “I haven’t seen the sun in a while,” she jokingly pointed out. “Smells a lot nicer out here, too.”

She managed to wheel forward a few more feet until she reached her first problem.

A descent.

She stared at the ramp in front of her. It was so simple.

“You sure you wanna try that?” Stretch asked, tipping his head toward the ramp. “It’s kind of steep. We didn’t really get to practice those much and I definitely don’t want you to get hurt.”

Applejack’s ears burned as she ducked her head. She looked straight at the ramp and clenched her jaw defensively. “It’s fine,” she responded, though a bit unsure. Tentatively, she pushed herself closer to the edge and let her hands grip tightly on the wheel’s pushrim.

“C’mon, cuz,” Apple Fritter started, standing beside Applejack. She crossed her arms and gave a half-smile. “Ya don’t gotta do anything you’re not ready for.”

“I am ready,” Applejack snapped. She turned her head to Fritter, who raised her hands to her side. “Don’t tell me what I ain’t ready for.”

“Sorry,” Fritter mumbled.

Applejack took one last look at the ramp. Stretch was right; it was definitely steeper than anything she’d tried so far. But how hard could it really be? She rolled forward slightly until her front wheels were barely touching the descent. Her hands gripped firmly at the rims, ensuring there was no chance of accidentally rolling down.

She wanted to go down, but her arms refused to let her go. Applejack tensed every muscle in her arms in an attempt to somehow make her let go, but her body just seemed to want to betray her.

“Hey,” Stretch kneeled next to her and grabbed her attention away from the ramp. He looked into her eyes with a firm smile. “Don’t worry about it. We haven’t gotten this far yet.”

Applejack frowned. “It’s just a ramp.”

He half shrugged. “Sure, but it’s new. It’s hard to get down these without popping a wheelie, and you haven’t tried that yet. But you’ll learn really quick, alright?”

“I guess,” she mumbled. Her grip loosened slightly on the pushrim as she wheeled herself back enough to let go entirely. She tried to ignore the look her family gave her.

“I’ll get you to the car,” Fritter said, stepping up behind Applejack and taking the handles in her hand.

Fritter pushed her down the ramp slowly as if she was a baby in a stroller. Applejack crossed her arms and stared dead ahead to where Big Mac had parked the truck. She then realized that she’d never even thought about how they were all going to get home. They must have come in two separate cars since they definitely weren’t going to fit more deadweight into the SUV.

As they slowed to a stop next to the truck, Applejack sighed. She glared at Fritter. “You didn’t have to push me all the way here.”

“Sorry.” Fritter rubbed her arm and glanced at Big Mac, who opened the door to the truck and stood with an arm on his hip. “You wanna ride with Mac?”

Applejack looked up at her brother, who raised an eyebrow at her. “Yeah.”

“Okay, well… He’s gonna have to, uh…”

“I know. It’s fine.” Applejack rolled her eyes and glanced at Big Mac, who rubbed his neck. “Just make sure to put my legs in right, ya big idiot.” Begrudgingly, she lifted her arms and allowed Big Mac to carefully lift her into his hands. It was an extremely strange sensation to watch herself be lifted and only feel half of it. Though her legs were uselessly dangling from her body, they didn’t feel heavy. They didn’t feel like anything at all, not even as her boots thumped against the interior of the truck.

As her brother placed her into the passenger side seat of the truck and made sure her legs were resting comfortably inside, Applejack couldn’t help but wonder how she would ever cope with it. She couldn’t get down a ramp, couldn’t put on her own pants. Hell, she couldn’t even get into a truck on her own.

It seemed as though Big Mac thought she couldn’t even put on her own seatbelt as he attempted to reach over her with the buckle in hand. “Hey,” Applejack hissed, swatting him away with a firm slap to the arm, “I can put on my own damn seatbelt.” Big Mac didn’t argue and simply relinquished the buckle to Applejack, who thankfully did manage to buckle herself in despite still being restricted by the back brace. With an exasperated exhale, Applejack let her arms fall limp. She pretended not to see the look that Big Mac and Apple Fritter shared.

“Right, well, thanks for everything,” Applejack finally said, turning her gaze to the mini crowd next to the truck. She watched as Big Mac lifted her wheelchair and carefully took it to the back of the truck. Her eyes followed the shiny orange chair until it disappeared from her view, presumably to be strapped down safely in the back.

“Of course,” Gentle responded with a smile. “It’s been a real treat knowing you, Applejack.”

“Hey, take it easy, huh?” Stretch gave her an approving nod and a smile. “You’re gonna ace it. Just keep believing in yourself.”

“Sure thing, doc,” Applejack replied with the best smile she could muster. “And the pleasure is all mine. Thanks again. And tell Nurse Carin’ thanks, too.”

“We will,” Steady promised with a thumbs up. “Just remember those stretches and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

“Alright. I’ll try,” Applejack swore with a nod. Applejack watched as the medical staff waved their goodbyes and retreated back into the hospital with a bittersweet smile. She had never liked doctors, but she couldn’t deny how much she had grown to like that group.

“You alright, dear?” Granny asked, reaching to put a hand on Applejack’s.

“Yeah. I’m alright.” She gave her grandmother an honest smile and sandwiched her hand gently between her own. With a sigh, she glanced over to her other relatives. “And I’m sorry for gettin’ angry. I know y’all are just eager to help.”

“Oh, we understand,” Granny responded, planting a soft kiss on Applejack’s cheek. “Like they said, it takes time, hun. You just got out, and ya still have a long way to go.”

Applejack dipped her head and sighed. “I’m tryin’.”

Granny gently patted the young woman’s cheek. “We know, hun.”

After allowing them their tender moment, Fritter cleared her throat. “Alright, we should be pushin’ off now. Let us know if y’all wanna make a rest stop or somethin’ and we can stop together. Sound good?”

Big Mac nodded and walked around the front to climb into the truck. “Eeyup.”

“I want to stop at a burger place!” Apple Bloom exclaimed. “Please, I am so hungry.”

“There’s food in the car,” Fritter told her. “But if yer sister wants burgers, we can stop for burgers later, ain’t that right, cuz?”

Applejack shrugged. “Uh, yeah, I guess.”

Apple Bloom fist pumped the air and skipped away, cheering something about it being the best day ever as she ran off to where the other car was parked. Fritter chuckled and pointed in the direction that Apple Bloom had gone. “I should go make sure she won’t get run over.”

“Eeyup,” Big Mac agreed.

“Talk to ya in a bit, cuz,” Fritter said as she backed away into a sprint behind Apple Bloom.

With them gone, Granny let out a sigh. “They ain’t gonna be quiet the entire time back.”

“Nope,” Big Mac put in, turning over the engine.

Applejack shook her head with a smile. “You sure you don’t wanna ride with Macky? I don’t mind goin’ with ‘em.”

Granny waved her off dismissively. “Ah, I like ‘em. They keep me young, y’know?” She cackled a laugh and shook her head. “Plus, I think some time with yer brother’ll be good for ya.”

Well, she definitely wasn’t going to disagree with that. It’d be nice to have a quiet ride back listening to Big Mac’s country mixtape. No talking, no drama, just a long quiet ride. “Yeah, you’re right. But you sure you’re fine? They kinda just up and left ya.”

“Oh, please,” Granny scolded. “I’m old, but I ain’t that old. I can walk to the car just fine, don’t you fret.”

“Alright, Granny. You just be careful,” Applejack told her. “We’ll see ya later, okay?”

The elder woman nodded. She glanced at Applejack once more with a tender smile. “I love you, girl. Don’t you ever forget that.”

Applejack smiled and held out her hand for her grandmother to squeeze in place of a hug. “I won’t ever forget it as long as you don’t forget how much I love ya.”

After Granny Smith left, Big Mac himself turned to Applejack and spread out an arm, leaning over to give her a side hug. “I love ya too, AJ.”

Applejack leaned her head into his hug. “I love you too, ya big softie.”

Author's Note:

Finally! Another chapter! Sorry it took so long. Again. I’ve just been having a hard time writing this story because I keep wanting to skip ahead. Argh!!!! But now we’re finally moving out of the hospital! . . . . And into rehab. But! I swear to God, it won’t be boring. I hope I haven’t been boring this entire time. Trying to balance making an interesting story while also being semi-realistic about what actually happens when you get injured. It annoys me when I see media where a character gets like super injured and then they're fine within like a week. That’s super... annoying. I dunno. But hell yeah, we finally get to move up another notch or two in my timeline! Now we are... Not even a quarter of the way through this timeline! I didn’t mean for it to take that long haha.

So we’re finally leaving behind this hospital crew. And Applejack can finally just wear regular clothes! Isn’t that so cool?

I have the next chapter pretty much all written cause I went in a COMPLETELY different direction than I had originally planned in this one and ended up having to make it two separate chapters. At least now I have something to upload next week. I’ve been so busy in this first month of college. It’s crazy! 2:37am right now and I still need to do my assignment for my elective that's due in like 7 hours, but I decided to prioritize this instead. Oops.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter! PLEAAASE leave me feedback and critiques or things you enjoyed so I know if I need to change anything about the way I’m going about this story. I really don’t want to be boring.

And no, I did not forget about the conversation that AJ and Strawb are supposed to have.

The Ty Pozzobon Foundation intends to break the stigma of mental health and wellbeing among Westerners and those who live its lifestyle.

Ty Pozzobon Foundation was established in February of 2017. Tanner Byrne and Chad Besplug were two of Ty’s closest friends and western lifestyle participants. They were instrumental in starting the Ty Pozzobon Foundation. Chad Besplug stated, “we want to break the stigma and start the conversation about mental health”. No one should have to battle this demon on their own. Bull riders would share advice on how to stay on top of a bull. Now they are sharing advice on how to stay on top of life.

The Amberley Snyder Freedom Foundation intends to give support and resources to youth and young adults living with disabilities to help them grow their confidence and independence.

The mission of Amberley Snyder Freedom Foundation is to provide youth and young adults with special needs and disabilities tools and services which will support their freedom, growth, happiness and independence. The ASFF will give youth or young adults the opportunity to utilize their strengths and continue to improve regardless of their personal challenges and situations. The focus of ASFF is to create and support environments of personal growth and unyielding progress.

Ty Pozzobon and Amberley Snyder are both big contributors to the rodeo community and beyond.

Pozzobon, unfortunately, took his own life at the young age of 25 despite being a top rodeo cowboy after many concussions. It was discovered that he suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a progressive and often fatal brain disease usually caused by repeated head trauma. He is the first case documented in a bull-rider. After his passing, his brain was donated to science in the hopes that it would help doctors learn more about this disease. [source]

Snyder was a rising star in the barrel racing scene. After a car crash rendered her unable to use her legs, she never gave up and worked hard, even getting back into the saddle only 4 months after the accident. When asked what her goals were for recovery she said it was simple. Walk. Ride. Rodeo. She retaught herself how to ride and how to barrel race and even made an appearance in The American in 2015 as the fan exemption. Snyder still appears in professional competition to this day despite having to quite literally buckle in and strap into her saddle. She is all sorts of inspirational, delivering many speeches and talks and showing support. She even has her own book titled Walk. Ride. Rodeo. and a Netflix movie of the same title. [source]