• Published 21st Aug 2021
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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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All Pain No Gain

The energy inside the arena was insane.

The crowd roared in anticipation as the next matchup was announced. Anyone worth their salt knew that Harbinger’s Ghost was the bronc to watch. She was rank. One of the nastiest broncs in pro rodeo and definitely the nastiest on the circuit. She did not discriminate.

And yet Applejack felt confident. She’d dealt with ornery horses before, she’d been on many broncs. Even when she would fall, she’d take that and learn. Applejack always got back up. Always got back in the saddle.

She approached the chute with a grin on her face and climbed up the fencing. As always, Harbinger’s Ghost was calm. So calm, like a statue.

The mare looked back at her and shook around wildly. Applejack held onto the reins with one hand as she spurred the bronc, somehow already on its back. The audience cheered her on as she managed to stay on. She could distinctly make out the faces of her family. They frowned at her angrily. Applejack couldn’t understand why. No matter where she looked, there they were and they were mad. She was doing her best, so why were they mad?

The next thing she knew, she was on the ground face up and screaming in pain. She hadn’t even felt herself fall off, she couldn’t even feel the pain so much as she just knew it was there. Applejack stared up at the ceiling, still just letting out an anguished cry for the pain she couldn’t feel. She heard herself scream, but it didn’t even feel like her mouth was open. Someone was yelling something at her, but she didn’t understand what they were saying. All she knew was that she was on the ground and in pain. She needed to go back, though. She had things to do.

Applejack tried to get up but failed. She sat up as best she could, which was only halfway, and when she looked down at herself, the only thing that registered was her missing legs.

Applejack woke up with a start and looked around in a panic. It was dark and quiet and she could feel her heart racing in her chest. Her mind kept trying to replay her dream, but she couldn’t even really remember what she had dreamt about. The more she tried to think about it, the more it faded from her memory. The only thing she could recall was that it didn’t feel like a dream at all.

After she finally made sure she was actually in bed and not in another dream, an uncomfortable pain seemed to manifest in her body. She had worked up the will to sit up, only to notice that the pain seemed to even continue below her waist somehow. It was an impossible pain.

Applejack winced and tried to rub the pain away, but she couldn’t feel the rubbing. Only pain.

She’d been woken up by pain before, and she’d been feeling a lot of it recently, but this time was different somehow. She just couldn’t fall back asleep. The pain wasn’t dull, it was more like burning pain. Or like a stabbing pain and it kept building.

Hours dripped by agonizingly slow as it turned into a sleepless, painful night. Applejack held her head in her hands, hunched over in her bed for most of it, drifting in and out of full consciousness, yet still entirely aware of the hurt. It had to be past sunrise at that point, but she couldn’t even manage to focus on the clock. Everything was blurry with pain and the bullets of sweat that kept dripping into her eyes. She almost wanted to get in her wheelchair and find someone or go to the washroom to splash her sweaty face with water but the pain left her… well… paralyzed.

She thought getting the back brace off would be great. That it meant liberty. More freedom.

Instead, it had opened up the door to a world of hurt, one that was surprisingly new. It was hard to balance, it was hard to remember her posture, and it put so much strain on her. They told her it was normal, but it really seemed like it wasn’t.

Applejack tried to keep her breathing steady in an attempt to dull the pain as she had been doing for the past week or so. She breathed in and out shallowly and slowly. Every breath felt like an attack against her lungs, and it never felt like she was taking in enough air.

Somehow, the worst was not behind her. It was resurfacing. She hadn’t been in so much pain since the first week in the hospital. That was when they adjusted her dose of painkillers, and the pain slowly died down most of the time. But at that moment sitting in bed with no idea of what time it even was, Applejack swore that she would rather go back. She couldn’t make the pain stop and it hurt so much worse than usual.

At some point, without her realizing it until it was too late, the shallow, uneven breathing had turned into crying. What she thought was just sweat became tears as she sobbed painfully into her palms. Her shoulders shook with every sob and desperate attempt to inhale more breath. Every movement of her shoulders peaked the pain, which only made her cry even harder. It definitely didn’t help that she’d gotten an intense headache an hour or so ago that just kept getting worse. Nothing she did helped.

She didn’t even notice the door open until Apple Bloom’s surprised and panicked voice cut into the sob-filled room. “Applejack! What’s wrong?!”

Applejack’s throat was raw by the time she was able to say anything between her sobs. She couldn’t tell how much time had passed since she had first started crying, but it felt like years. It was probably just the worst-timed ten minutes of her life.

“I–it hurts so much!” she childishly wailed.

It wasn’t just the pain. Applejack knew that. As soon as the first few painful tears fell, it felt like a dam inside her broke. “I c-can’t do this anymore,” she rasped out. Her palms rubbed into her eyes, which made her vision dark and spotty. “I don’t know h–how to keep g–going.”

Apple Bloom didn’t say anything. She probably didn’t even know what to say. She was just a kid after all. She shouldn’t even be seeing Applejack like that. Instead, she gently pulled her elder sister into a hug. Applejack hiccuped between her cries, but let herself loosen up into her grasp. Apple Bloom was cold and she still had on a slightly wet jacket, but Applejack didn’t care. She was running out of energy rapidly and her lack of sleep didn’t help, either. Her body ached and hurt like she’d never felt before, her brain was foggy, and her vision was so blurry that the only way she knew it was Apple Bloom that hugged her was by her voice and scent. She always smelled like home.

The world seemed to slip away from her as her cries let up. The pain dulled, but so did everything else. “It hurts,” she mumbled repetitively to Apple Bloom, who said something about getting help before Applejack finally exhausted herself enough to fall asleep.

~~~~🍎~~~~

The wind smelled like rain. There was a storm coming. Applejack breathed in deeply and smiled as she looked over the cattle herding together in the field. She exhaled slowly and let the soft breeze chill her skin. It was definitely a welcome change from the hot spell that had come over the past week. A cold front was finally coming in after they’d been waiting for so long.

“It’s nice, ain’t it, boy?” Applejack leaned forward and rubbed the horse’s neck. In return, Barley snorted. Applejack giggled. “I knew you’d agree. Ain’t this weather just the best?”

Her musing was interrupted by the default ringtone that her phone came with. Applejack cocked her head as she pulled the flip phone from her pocket and looked at the caller I.D. “Oh, it’s Macky.” Applejack grinned and pulled the rein forward with one hand, letting Barley go at a slow pace back toward the house. “I probably forgot to do some chore or something. Ya think he’s gonna chew me out, ‘Ley?” she asked teasingly as she answered the call with her free hand. “Hey, Mac, what’s up?”

The line was silent save for a barely audible breath.

“Hm, didja butt dial me again, Macky?” Applejack teased. “C’mon, this is why I don’t like those fancy touchscreen phones.”

Applejack?”

Mack spoke quietly, and his voice cracked ever so slightly. Applejack’s smile dropped as she recognized that tone. She’d never heard it from Big Mac himself, but she knew that it wasn’t good. “Mac? Is something wrong?”

C-can you come home?”

He really really tried to keep his voice steady, but it didn’t work. Big Mac had the worst poker face Applejack had ever seen, and that extended to his voice. “Big Mac? What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice dropping to barely a whisper.

The wind blew gently, but it didn’t feel quite so good against Applejack’s suddenly cold skin.

M—” He took a sharp breath. “Ya gotta come home, AJ.”

Something was wrong. Something was really wrong. Applejack trembled as she nodded. “Yeah, I’m on my way. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“Okay.” He paused but didn’t hang up. “I love you.”

The line clicked dead. Applejack didn’t bother putting her phone away properly as she clicked her tongue and squeezed her legs with desperation against Barley’s flank. The phone fell to the ground behind her as she raced against the cool breeze back home in silence.

~~~~🍎~~~~

Applejack opened her eyes drowsily and glanced around. She wasn’t in a field. She wasn’t fifteen. She was in a bed and despite the world spinning around her, she knew she was at least in a room.

It was a dream, of course it was a dream.

As soon as she regained control of her body, she reached up to cover her forehead and push herself more upright. A dull pain protested the move, but all it did was make her wince as she pressed herself up against the headrest of the bed. Her eyes slowly drifted up and in her still-focusing vision, she noticed a figure slumped up in a chair at the end of the room, covered by a dark blue jacket used in place of a blanket.

“A–Apple Bloom?” she managed to croak through her dry throat.

At that, her little sister slowly stirred in her bunched-up state and lifted her head, instinctively reaching to her neck which must have been sore from the position she had been in. As soon as she made eye contact with Applejack, she shot up to her feet. “Applejack!”

The girl ran to Applejack and gave her a hug, which made Applejack have to hold back a pained grunt. The blonde slowly put an arm on Apple Bloom’s shoulder and gently pushed her back. Her sister stared back at her with puffy, red eyes.

And then it clicked. Applejack remembered the pain and the crying and the way her sister held her before her body shut down from exhaustion. She totally forgot that her siblings were going to come to visit her for the afternoon. A lump in her throat rose, but she managed to speak through it. “I’m s—”

Apple Bloom shook her head and cut Applejack off. “No, don’t. I’m not a little kid, you don’t have to be sorry for cryin’ in front of me.”

The door opened slowly to let in her brother and one of the nurses that worked in the facility. Apple Bloom turned to face them. She and Big Mac shared a look that Applejack couldn’t quite figure out.

The nurse—a short and bulky woman that Applejack had only seen in passing before—approached Applejack. “Hi, Applejack. I’m Nurse Terry. It’s good to see you’re awake. Are you feeling better?”

Applejack barely felt awake. She grimaced, though, as the question reminded her that she was in fact awake and with that realization came a bit of pain. “I… My body hurts,” she responded quietly. “But less than before.”

Nurse Terry nodded. “That’s good, the painkillers are working, then.”

“Is she gonna be alright?” Apple Bloom asked, holding one of Applejack’s hands. She hadn’t even noticed until she looked down at their hands that she had an IV in.

“Yes, she’ll be fine. Pain is normal, even intense pain,” she reassured them. “Have you been taking the prescribed painkillers when you feel it?”

Applejack didn’t like the idea of that. “No.”

The nurse just nodded slightly. “Okay, I would recommend it, though, especially if you are having intense pain like this often. Can you tell me what happened?”

Applejack’s eyes narrowed as she tried to remember what happened before she fell asleep. Her brain was foggy, but she remembered some details. “I woke up in the middle of the night,” she started slowly, trying to speak coherently. Whatever they pumped into her really worked. “And my body started really hurtin’, even below my injury where I ain’t supposed to feel anything. It just kept rampin’ up, and I couldn’t fall asleep again.”

Though, there was no way she was up for so many hours, at least she couldn’t remember being up for so many. It all kind of just blended together. “Or maybe I was in and out of sleep. I dunno, I just remember trying to make the pain stop, but I couldn’t move at all, I was just sweatin’ a–and I couldn’t breathe.” She paused to swallow the lump in her throat. “Then I just started cryin’, but that musta been hours after I woke up, I think… It’s like I couldn’t control it.”

“Okay. The body pain is likely because of all the work you’ve been doing. You’re doing a lot after being confined to a bed for so long. It’s perfectly normal and it will mostly go away with time.” She smiled at Applejack in an attempt to calm her down. It only worked a little bit. “ As for the pain you feel in your lower body, it’s not unusual.

“It’s similar to amputees and phantom limb pains. It's a neuropathic pain, which means that likely your brain is misinterpreting the signals it’s getting, which makes it feel like you’re in pain where you otherwise can’t feel anything. This happens with people after spinal cord injuries, too. Depending on the person, the intensity of pain varies. Is this the first time this has happened?”

“Well, the, uh, the leg pains, yeah.” Applejack frowned and tried to remember what the pain was like, but even though she knew it was some of the worst pain she’d ever felt, she couldn’t re-imagine what it felt like to feel something in her legs, even pain. “Never had it before, but I’ve been woken up by pain before. I can usually go back to bed quick enough. I just couldn’t this time.”

“So the pain is what woke you up?”

Applejack glanced at her family for a moment. “I–I don’t think so. I had a dream that woke me up, and then the pain worsened.”

“Ah, was this dream unpleasant? Sometimes waking up due to stress can cause pain.”

“I… think so.” She tried to remember, but the only clear dream she could recall was the one she had just woken up from, and it was more of a memory than a dream. Applejack frowned. That wasn’t the one she needed to know, though. “I can’t remember what it was, but it definitely wasn’t nice.”

Apple Bloom tightened her hold on Applejack’s hand. Once they made eye contact, Apple Bloom gave her sister a sad smile. Applejack blinked slowly at her with her own small smile.

“Well, the morphine seems to be helping with the pain,” the nurse told her and her family. “And you do have your prescription for painkillers. I suggest you take them. Now, I must warn you that you must only take it as directed as it is an addictive substance.” She handed Applejack a small orange bottle with small white pills in it. “But I’m sure your last caretakers told you that already.”

Applejack tentatively took the drugs in her hand and glanced at the label. She hadn’t even given them a spare thought since they’d been prescribed to her. She knew that they were no joke, and she really really didn’t want to have to take them, but every other medication they had tried wasn’t working, so they gave her opioids.

She didn’t want to take them, so she decided to pretend it didn’t hurt. But it really hurt, and now she held them in her hands. But she did have a choice.

Take one capsule by mouth every four hours for pain, as needed.

Applejack frowned. “Do I have to?”

“It’s up to you,” the nurse told her, “but if the pain continues regularly, or even just comes back past tomorrow, then I would recommend it, yes. Body pain should become less frequent while your body adjusts to the new routine, though pain is often reported as the biggest problem among people with SCI, which is why the medication is recommended. Once it becomes less frequent, we can see about switching you to a different medication if necessary.”

Applejack considered what she had said. If the pain really was the biggest problem that people like her seemed to have, then wouldn’t it be best to just cowboy up and deal with it? But then again… it had been so bad. Applejack wasn’t sure if she could cope with it, but she really didn’t want to have to depend on drugs.

Big Mac seemed to understand her hesitation and caught Applejack’s eye to give her a small nod. Applejack looked at him with a frown but relented. “Okay, I just hope it gets better.”

“It will. Just give it some time, okay?” Nurse Terry smiled at her. “We’ll be keeping you on some weaker painkillers for an hour or two alongside the morphine in your system until it goes away. And if you have any questions or concerns about the prescription, let me know. But think about it, alright?”

Applejack just nodded. She had various concerns, but she already knew what Terry would say about all of them, so she kept them to herself.

“Great, I’ll be back in an hour or so to check in. I’ve gone ahead and cancelled your meeting with Rain for today so you can rest up.”

After Nurse Terry left, Applejack craned her neck up to look at the ceiling. Truth be told, she was kind of glad that Granny hadn’t been able to come that day. The temperature dramatically dropped and there had been a big snowfall overnight, so she definitely wasn’t expecting her siblings to show up, either. She was glad they had, but she was also upset about the timing.

No one said anything for a while. Apple Bloom sat next to Applejack, careful not to accidentally tug on her IV, and rested her head on her shoulder. Big Mac simply sat in the chair next to the bed and looked out the window.

The silence was suffocating. Applejack wasn’t sure what to say to break it, but she knew she had to say something. The last thing she wanted was for that to be the only thing on her siblings’ minds. “Uh, so how are things at home? Kinda hard to believe there’s a foot of snow outside.”

The weather. That was the best Applejack could come up with. She almost wanted to cringe at herself for the very obvious change in topic, not that there was a topic at all. But at least it wasn’t an unusual question to ask; the weather was always a concern when your livelihood depends on running a successful ranch.

Apple Bloom perked up at the question. “I know right?! It’s not even really winter yet. I was out two days ago with just my denim jacket, and now it looks like Christmas is tomorrow.”

“But to answer your question, it’s fine. We had to clear the snow out front and make sure the water for the cattle wasn’t frozen over. Heater’s workin’, though,” Big Mac butted in, standing to ruffle Apple Bloom’s hair—she tried to bite his hand in return but he removed it quickly enough, entirely unperturbed. “I had to fix up the windbreaks, though, they were kinda fallin’ apart.”

“Oh,” Applejack responded. She should have been there to help out with that, but she wasn’t. “And how about the horses out in the field?”

“They’re good,” Apple Bloom told her with a grin. “I checked up on ‘em while takin’ Barley out this morning. Nothin’ to worry about, they seemed as healthy as… well, as horses.”

The rest of the conversation seemed to drag on, and while all three siblings seemed to laugh and joke about the state of the weather recently and the hijinks happening at home, Applejack could feel the weight of things left unsaid. She had a bottle of pills on her nightstand. She was supposed to take them. They were drugs, and she was supposed to take them.

Eventually, Big Mac and Apple Bloom left as it started to snow again. Applejack couldn’t blame them—everything got so much harder once the snow started to come in. Normally, Applejack would do checks on the calves in the mornings while Big Mac would check on the sheep and chickens. Apple Bloom would make sure to blanket up the horses that couldn’t keep themselves warm during the cold morning hours. Without Applejack, then they’d have to do more work.

Applejack stared at the bottle on her nightstand. Managing the pain would help. Then she could be of use.

She frowned and resigned herself to her fate. “I just gotta be smart. I can’t make his mistakes.”

Author's Note:

Okay, so this one actually hurt to write.

I don’t really know what to say about it. I had to go back and change the opening like three times because it wasn’t really conveying what I wanted it to. I think this version is better, though. The frustration that arises from constant pain, mixed with... well, pain, and other bottled-up feelings? Not a good combo.

If you weren’t aware of it before, I did make that blog I talked about in my last A/N. There’s some blog-exclusive art over there, as well as some other fun exclusive things you can check out. Check it out here :)

Let me know what you thought of the chapter if you want. It’s kiiinda an important one. Oh and about that last line? You’ll find out. Don’t worry.


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]