• 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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Reassurances

Applejack really hated to admit it, but the painkillers were helping.

Strangely enough… her life seemed a little bit brighter as a result. Physio felt a lot more doable, and she’d even managed to both wheel herself up the big ramp in one go and wheelie off the curb without a problem. Parallel bars were still the toughest part, but even that wasn’t as big of a problem as it felt when she had just arrived three weeks ago. Needless to say, despite having had a slow start, she was finally where she needed to be halfway through her stay.

“Alright, remember your cool-down stretches.” Rain positioned himself next to Applejack in his own wheelchair and led her through the stretches even though she already knew how to do them.

She didn’t really mind, though, so she followed along, taking extra care to make sure her shoulders were cooled down properly. “Didja really have to show me up like that?”

He laughed in turn, knowing exactly what Applejack was referring to. He had challenged her to a wheelie contest to see who could hold the wheelie position the longest. Realistically, she knew it was an excuse to get Applejack to practice staying balanced without relying on her upper body as much, but she just couldn’t say no to some friendly competition. It really should have clicked in her mind that he had much more experience than her, anyway.

“Aw, it wasn’t that bad,” Rain responded with a little shrug as he rolled out his shoulder. “You did pretty well.”

“Yeah, then you started usin’ one hand,” Applejack countered with a roll of her eyes. She couldn’t imagine a situation in which she’d only have one hand during a wheelie, but to be fair, she had never really had to think about that sort of thing before. “Hey, maybe I’ll beat you some time.”

Rain smiled and nodded. “I think you’ve got a good chance. I mean, I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been beat before, but…” he trailed off and innocently looked at the ceiling as Applejack scoffed and shook her head.

She didn’t have anything to say that wouldn’t just encourage him, so Applejack stayed quiet and finished cooling off. She could already feel the way her muscles were going to be sore, but at least that meant that she did a good job. Besides, if it got too bad, she could just take one of her pills.

It still didn’t feel right taking them, but they were given to her for a reason and they definitely did their job. She couldn’t bring herself to complain too much about it, even if outwardly she would make a big deal of it.

Once they were both done with the stretches, Rain backed up against the wall and stood from his wheelchair. “Okay, great work today. How are you feeling overall? Any pain?”

Ever since last week’s incident, Rain kept asking that same question. It was sweet in a way, but kind of annoying. He meant well, of course, him being a medical professional and all. But Applejack still couldn’t help but feel sort of ashamed at the memory of what happened.

And how it was Apple Bloom who happened to walk in.

“Hey, Earth to Applejack.”

Applejack realized she’d been staring off into space and shook her head—and mind—back to reality. Her hand reached up to rub her neck. How stupid was she? She couldn’t keep zoning out like that. “Ah, sorry. I’m fine, just a little sore already.”

Rain nodded and crossed his arms. “Yeah, you did a lot today. We’ll take it easy tomorrow, though. Unless you wanted to do parallel bars tomorrow.”

Honestly, she really didn’t, but she didn’t want to come off as weak so she shrugged. “I’m alright with whatever ya got planned.” It was mostly true. She didn’t want to fall behind again, especially not because of something so silly as being sore.

He must have noticed something, though, because Rain furrowed his eyebrows a bit. “Well, how about we figure it out tomorrow, then?” he suggested. “If you don’t feel up to snuff, then we can do something else.”

She’d take it. Applejack nodded and caught the water bottle that Rain gently tossed at her. “Sure, but I’m fine.” She opened it and realized she was a lot thirstier than she thought. She also realized she was a lot sweatier than she thought.

After draining half the bottle of its contents, Applejack exhaled in satisfaction and tucked the bottle between her torso and the armrest. She wanted to leave, but Rain still hadn’t given her any tasks or recommendations for her to work on or do before their next session. It was usually the same stretches and routine every time, but she always waited for him to say it anyway.

Instead, he seemed to find an interesting spot on the roof. Applejack frowned and crossed her arms, staring intently at him. “Somethin’ wrong?”

Rain pursed his lips and pointed up. “It says ‘gullible’ on the ceiling.”

“What?”

He looked down at Applejack. “Look.”

Applejack, for some unknown reason, actually looked up. There was nothing up there. Why would there have been? “Oh.”

Rain, the bastard, snickered. “Yeah, y’know that’s how I feel.”

“What?” Applejack cocked her head at him.

“Well, you say you’re okay with doing anything tomorrow,” Rain started, giving her a patient smile. The type of smile that he reserved for when he was speaking as a medical professional rather than as something akin to a friend. “But I can tell you probably want to take it easy. You know it’s okay to take breaks, right? If you don’t feel up to it, I’d rather we do something that won’t risk hurting you.”

Ah, so that’s what that was about. He didn’t want Applejack to get hurt. Of course, he obviously heard about what happened. He was one of the people on the medical team helping her out, after all. Not a friend, at least not first and foremost, if at all. That was a stupid thought.

Applejack frowned and backed away from him. She could make her own decisions as to what to do. She wasn’t a child, and who had ever said hard work was a bad thing? It wasn’t worth doing if it wouldn’t push you even just a bit. “I know what my limits are. You don’t have to worry ‘bout me gettin’ hurt; I’ve been there already, I’ve gone through that.” Applejack felt herself get angry, so she shut up. After a moment, she sighed and glanced down. “Can’t exactly get much worse, and I wanna get better.”

She didn’t want to lose her temper with him, but Applejack couldn’t help but hate the way people had treated her ever since the accident. It wasn’t on purpose, she was sure, and definitely not patronizing—at least not every time—but she had noticed the way that most people—even her family despite them claiming the opposite—treated her like she needed help with everything, or that she couldn’t take care of herself.

And of course, she knew Rain was just doing his job. She knew that he was being paid to spend this hour with her and prepare her and teach her how to do the things she needs to know, but even knowing that, Applejack couldn’t help but feel frustrated. She could manage herself, and sure, she did need some help with learning how to do things for herself, but that was the thing. She was supposed to learn to do things herself. If she couldn’t even insist on doing the work, then what was the point?

She wasn’t going to tell him that, though. So she let his slightly disappointed look wash over her. Well, she wasn’t sure if it was disappointment exactly, but it wasn’t a positive emotion. He just dipped his head. “Okay, then I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Applejack nodded and said her goodbyes to him as she pushed herself back toward the main hallway that would eventually take her where she needed to go. Before she got there, though, Rain added, “Applejack?”

She turned her head toward him. “Yeah?”

He looked at her with a half-opened mouth that suggested he was going to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. After a moment, he shook his head, though it seemed it was mostly at himself. “I suggest we take a break tomorrow. You’re doing well, so you don’t need to worry about your progress.”

I ain’t the one worrying.

Applejack didn’t say anything, nor did she acknowledge the sentiment. Instead, she turned back toward where she was headed and started on her way back.

She spent the time returning to her room in quiet contemplation. Her arms already felt achy and her back was starting to hurt. Maybe Rain was right, maybe she should take a break.

Then again… if she let herself give up just because she was a bit sore, then how would she ever get through a whole day of doing exactly what she’d been doing? Realistically, she would have to manage rough terrain and inclines and ramps and curbs all the time. How was taking a break after only a few hours a day—at most—going to help her?

Applejack shook her head as she slowed down at the door to her room. She would just have to man up, take a painkiller, and deal with it. It would help in the long run. With a determined nod, Applejack opened the door to her room and headed inside.

Before she could even close the door behind her, though, someone entered her line of view. Applejack yelped and let the door close behind her with a thud.

“Woah, sorry. Didn’t mean to scare ya.” Thistle took a step back and ran his hand through his black hair. “I came to check on ya, but you weren’t in the room so I figured I’d wait.”

Applejack exhaled a sigh and set her wheelchair at a better angle to where Thistle stood. “Yeah, that’s fine. I just ain’t used to surprise visitors.”

“I was going to text you, but I wasn’t sure I was gonna be able to come,” he explained, putting his hands in his pockets. Thistle looked around the room and half shrugged. “Nice room ya got here.”

The room definitely wasn’t anything special, but it did feel less bleak than the hospital room, at least. Applejack hadn’t really even thought about it before, but she realized she hadn’t seen her own room in far too long.

She put that thought to the side and chuckled briefly. “Well, it’s fine, I suppose.” She glanced at the bedside drawer where she knew the little orange pill bottle was and frowned before looking back at Thistle. “What are you doin’ here, anyway?”

“Well, I came to pick up something I left last time.” He put his hand on his shoulder, perhaps absent-mindedly, and smiled a bit. “Figured I’d drop in and bug ya a bit.”

“Aw, you ain’t buggin’ me,” Applejack told him with a smile of her own, “though I wish you’d’ve told me you were droppin’ by. I just got back from physio and I reckon I’m a mite gross right now.”

Thistle stepped over and sat on the edge of Applejack’s bed. He scratched at the stubble on his face and shrugged in amusement. “Hey, if it means anythin’ to ya, I really don’t care. I’m a cowboy, remember? And I know you know what I mean by that. Rodeo ain’t pretty.”

It was hard to hold back the frown that the reminder of her past life threatened to bring to her face, but Applejack managed to simply hold a tight smile and force out a laugh that was probably too exaggerated for his joke. “I guess you’re right, but still. Would like a warning next time.”

“Sure thing,” Thistle promised. His eyes looked around the room quickly. “Say, is your family comin’ in today?”

“Not that I know of,” Applejack told him as she rolled up to the desk in front of the bed. She opened her laptop and, as she thought, no messages from any of her family informing her of a visit. “Gettin’ pretty busy back home, what with the snow and all.”

“I bet. So they got less time for you, huh?”

She really couldn’t hold back her frown that time. Applejack stayed glancing at her screen as she nodded. “Yeah, there’s a lot to do. Makin’ sure the water won’t freeze over, checkin’ on the cattle and keepin’ ‘em where they’re supposed to be in the winter near the windbreaks, makin’ sure the horses are alright…” Applejack trailed off, truly realizing how much there was to be done. She’d thought about it before, of course, but saying it out loud really made it click how much she was missing out on. Even if she was back home, she couldn’t really do much of any of those things.

It wasn’t like she could do anything about it. Applejack sighed and propped her chin on the palm of her hand. “There’s more stuff, but I, uh, I’m sure my family’s got it.”

“From what I remember, you’ve got a cousin lives near you, right?” Thistle stuttered before adding, “I remember ‘cause of her, uh, heh, bright green hair. She come ‘round often to help?”

“Sure, but in the winter she gets pretty busy, too.” Applejack stared blankly at her screen. “Farms ain’t exactly much easier to maintain in the winter than a ranch as far as I know. So, I guess then, no she doesn’t get around as often.”

“Ah, so y’all got ranch hands, I imagine.” Thistle let out a low chuckle. “I mean, I imagine it’s tough with just the four of ya.”

“Three,” Applejack corrected.

“Huh?”

She sighed and shook her head. “Only three. I ain’t helpin’. I’m here, right?”
A hand on her shoulder made Applejack duck her head even more. Thistle gently rubbed her on the shoulder reassuringly. “Well, for now. Can’t you help after you get out? Or after ya get better?”

Get better.

She snorted, though the smile on her face was more of a grimace. “I dunno if there’ll be much gettin’ better. At least not in the way that matters.” Applejack turned to see Thistle staring at her with a frown. She bit her lip and shut her eyes. She’d tried to not think about it since that day, but she really couldn’t avoid it. Applejack had never wanted to admit it, to say it out loud because then it’d make it true. Or at least, true to her. And then? Then there was no going back.

She looked down at her wheelchair. Her definitely expensive, orange wheelchair. If she was going to be stuck in one for the rest of her life, then sure. Why not get a good, pricey one? That must have been what her family was thinking when they got it. That must have been the excuse they used to convince themselves that she even deserved it.

“Poor Applejack,” they must have said. “How do we make up for the fact that she can’t do anything anymore?

Applejack kept her eyes shut. “Doc said I won’t be walkin’ ever again.”

Thistle was quiet.

In the darkness behind her closed eyelids, Applejack was surprised to feel as though she had abruptly moved. Once she opened her eyes, she discovered that Thistle had turned her chair to face him. He grabbed her hands in his and rested them on her lap, making sure to maintain eye contact with her. His stare was strangely soft, though with an intensity that bubbled beneath the surface. “Then they find someone else to help in the ways you can’t.”

Applejack thought about Strawberry Sunrise.

Thistle tightened his grip on her hands a bit as if he knew that her thoughts wandered away. “But so what? There’s other stuff you can do, I’m sure. You don’t need to walk to do a lot of things.”

Applejack hadn’t realized it before, but Thistle vaguely smelled of smoke. Just another stereotype. If the moment didn’t feel so heavy, she might have pointed it out with a laugh. Instead, she swallowed dryly and glanced down at their hands. “That ain’t true on a ranch.”

“You’ll find something.”

It was strange how he needed to crouch down to get to eye level with her. She hadn’t even noticed it at first. Applejack blinked and shook her head. “I–I guess.”

He nodded and took his hands off of Applejack’s, though he didn’t stand back up. “Hey, I didn’t mean to sour the mood, y’know.”

“I know,” Applejack told him as she fiddled with her ring.

“C’mon, I know what’ll make ya feel better. How ‘bout I come by next week and I’ll pick us up some dinner?” He grinned and winked. “Anything you want. My treat.”

That would be nice. The rehab centre had decent food, and it wasn’t uncommon for Applejack to have food brought to her by her family whenever they’d visit, but she had honestly grown tired of eating the same food all the time. It wasn’t that she didn’t appreciate it, but Apple Bloom always insisted they pick up burgers and Granny always obliged.

Applejack nodded and found herself even smiling at the idea. “Sure. I don’t rightly care what you bring, long as it ain’t burgers.”

Thistle laughed at that. “Sure, no burgers for ya. What? Too good for ‘em?”

“Nah, I’ve just had too many.”

“Oh yeah?” He made a show of quizzically looking at Applejack. “Hmm, sure doesn’t seem like it.”

The blonde felt her cheeks go red at that as she reached in front of her to shove Thistle as best as she could despite her soreness. He chuckled and prevented himself from falling backwards by putting his hand on the ground as Applejack turned away from him. “Ah, remind me why I even talk to ya,” she teased, referring to the conversations they’ve had on the phone and via messaging for the past two weeks.

“It’s cause I’m charming,” Thistle said confidently. Even though she couldn’t see him, Applejack could imagine his stupid face. “All the ladies love it.”

Applejack shook her head in amusement but didn’t reply. Instead, she let her gaze fall back on her bedside table and with that, she felt her smile fade. She sighed and shrugged her shoulders, which felt kind of painful. “I got some stuff to do. I think it best if you leave now.” She heard Thistle stand up behind her, so she turned to face him. She expected him to be upset, but he didn’t really seem bothered. In fact, he didn’t seem to feel any sort of way about it.

Before she could think too much about it, though, he adopted his trademark sly grin. “Sure. Still good for next week? I’ll let you know when I can come, and you let me know when your family ain’t gonna be around.”

Applejack gave him a thumbs up. “Yeah, sounds alright to me.”

Thistle turned to grab his hat and coat from the coat rack. Applejack hadn’t even noticed they were there until that moment, but obviously, it made sense in hindsight. It was cold and snowy outside, after all. He put on his black hat and his coat, then opened the door. “It’s a date, then.” He tipped his hat before leaving the room. “See ya next week, AJ.”

He had never used that nickname on her before. Applejack waved at him as he left, but it didn’t feel right to say anything in response. After the door shut, Applejack found herself frowning. She liked Thistle. She did. He was nice, and he was funny. And he was charming, even if he meant it as a joke. But he was a stranger, and Applejack didn’t like strangers. So why was he easy to talk to? And why had she agreed to let him bring dinner?

That finally caught up to Applejack as she pulled up next to the bed and threw her water bottle onto it. “Wait. Did I just agree to a date with him?”

She frowned, mostly in confusion, as she spoke aloud. Her actions slowed, but she continued the mindless routine of transferring into bed. He did say it was a date, but did he mean that literally or in a joking way? Applejack moved her weight onto the bed and winced at how sore her shoulders really were. She let herself slowly onto the bed and rolled out her arms before lifting her legs onto the bed. Ignoring the pain for the time being, though, she scooted herself to the back of the bed, where she looked over to the table and sighed.

How would she know? Maybe she should ask him if it was an actual date or if he was joking. Either way, she didn’t know if she wanted to go on a date with him. She’d never been on a date before, though she never found much interest in the idea. Applejack had never had many guy friends—if family even counted as guy friends, and she’d definitely never had an interest in dating a guy. Not that any guy ever found interest in her.

But Thistle was… different. He actually wanted to talk to her, and he wasn’t condescending when doing it. As far as Applejack could tell, Thistle was just genuinely interested in her. And perhaps even ‘interested’ interested, as Apple Bloom would say. Maybe Applejack wasn’t the epitome of a romance guru, but she was pretty sure that Thistle liked her. She just didn’t know how she felt about him.

He was nice. He was sweet, and he was confident. All good traits. All desirable traits as far as Applejack knew were based on listening to other people. She didn’t dislike him, and she did like talking to him. Was that what it was all about?

She wasn’t sure. But she thought she should give it a shot.

Thistle had asked her on a date. Applejack agreed to it. That wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t as nerve-wracking as Fritter made it seem. She felt fine about it, unlike Fritter who always seemed a nervous mess when talking about boys. Maybe Applejack was just…

Well, she wasn’t sure. But she had a date with Thistle. Probably. And it was about time it happened. Everyone in her family had always asked her if she’d finally found a guy to like, and the answer had always been no. But now? Now she had a probable date with Thistle. That was good. Now she’d have something to say when asked. She could finally say that she did find a guy and then they would finally stop asking.

Decidedly content with her rationalization on the matter, Applejack grinned and got back to the task at hand. The pain. She leaned sideways, pulled open the drawer, and took out the orange bottle. It was almost still entirely full. She had only been taking them when she really couldn’t take the pain.

Applejack could feel the pain coming this time, though, and she needed to prove to Rain that she could do everything he asked. She wasn’t weak, and she wasn’t going to come out of rehab unable to do anything. She was going to help on the ranch one way or another. Thistle was right about that.

Applejack sucked air through her teeth and opened the bottle, revealing the medicine inside. It would stop the pain and she could have a shower.

She tilted the bottle and let one fall into her hand before closing the bottle and hiding it away once more. It would stop the pain and she could go back to the bars—she knew they were never in use after her session.

She popped the pill in her mouth and took a swig from the water bottle she threw onto the bed. It would stop the pain and she could be better.

Applejack smiled as she washed it down. There was a lot to look forward to.

Author's Note:

I don’t know how I feel about this chapter, but I kind of don’t like it. Oh well!

Anyway, sorry I missed last week. I’ve been so super insanely busy. Argh. It’s 4:20am and I’m procrastinating so hard I wrote this chapter. What do you think? Lots of emotional back and forth here, kind of a rollercoaster. It be like that sometimes. Speaking of, I hate writing Thistle. He’s hard to write, haha!

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, so I’ll leave it at that. Leave your thoughts down below if you want! And for those of you unaware, the Reins blog is up and running. Thank you to everyone who’s been sending in asks! They’ve been super fun to answer, and it’s been fun making art for the blog! If you have any ideas for the blog, do let me know either here in PMs or on the blog itself :)


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]