• 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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Iced Over

Dirt.

Applejack’s knees were dirty. Caked in layers of grass and dirt and failed work.

The air smelled like a storm. Heavy and thick and wet like rain. It threatened to turn into a downpour at any moment.

Gray skies and angry clouds. The faint rumble of thunder.

Denim wasn’t the right armour, but it was all she had. It’d have to do.

Leather boots offered protection against the sinking floor beneath her. Every step was heavy. Dragged into and out of the mud. Every step was more of a struggle than the last. A fight to move forward.

Wet.

Applejack’s jeans sagged with the weight of their mess and the water that had slowly but surely begun to fall from the sky. She trudged forward, becoming more and more stuck as she tried.

The rain started slowly. A splash on her arm. A drop from the brim of her hat. Good thing she wore her wool hat. Straw wouldn’t have helped. She shook her hand, but it became wet again anyway.

Cold.

It was cold. The rising wind against her newly wet body made the spring breeze feel like winter’s requiem. By the time she reached the front porch, her limbs shook and her teeth chattered.

She opened the door and took off her boots before stepping inside. Dad would be mad if she tracked mud into the house. Applejack lifted her head and took off her hat with a shaky arm. She hung it on the hat rack and looked to her right. The bottom of her ponytail dripped wet on the ground, as did the rest of her body.

“Applejack?” Her mom raced to her with a clearly worried expression. Her blue eyes were wide as she put her hands on Applejack’s shoulders. “Darlin’, what happened? Why’re you all soaked? Didn’t ya see the clouds comin’ in?”

“Barley spooked,” Applejack explained through chattering teeth. “He ran off.”

“Oh, he’ll come back,” Pear Butter assured her as she led Applejack further into the house. The warmth was nice. “C’mon, let’s get you warmed up. Go put on some dry clothes first, alright? I’ll get the fireplace ready.”

“Pa told me not to go out,” Applejack told her, not taking her eyes off the ground. “Said it was gonna rain, but I wanted to go out with Barley…”

“Next time, listen to him, alright?” She followed Applejack up the stairs to her room. “Now dry off and get on some warm clothes, okay? Come back downstairs when you’re done.”

“Okay.” Applejack shut the door beside her and found some dry clothes to wear. Some thick gray sweatpants and an orange T-shirt would do the trick. Once she dried off as best as she could with her towel, she put on the clothes and left her room with the pile of wet clothes in hand. Applejack felt a lot better dried off, but she was still frozen to the bone.

On her way back down, she deposited the dripping clothes in the laundry basket. The stairs squeaked beneath her feet. No sneaking around in this house.

“Do you wanna do it?”

Applejack nodded numbly and grabbed the lighter once she was close enough. She pressed it on and poked its long shaft onto the wooden logs and lit the firelighters. The flame slowly rose and instantly so did the heat. She thought about Barley. Was he scared and cold, too? She hoped he’d come back before her brother and dad did. If not, she might get in trouble. “Will Barley really come back?”

There was no hesitation in her mother’s answer. “Yes, hun. He will,” she assured her. “Y’all have a special bond and a horse like that’ll come back to its owner. Mighta just been the storm that scared him”

“Yeah,” Applejack agreed. She’d only had Barley for a few months, but already the horse had grown attached to her, even despite her mother’s not-so-secretly expressed accusations toward her husband about the horse being “too much” for Applejack. “H-h-he’s a good horse.”

Pear Butter wrapped her arms around her child and kissed the top of her damp hair. “I know, sweetie.”

Applejack shivered against her hold, but the added body heat helped. “Please don’t sell him,” she pleaded. Her eyes burned as she blinked tears away. “I heard you talking to P-P-Pa ‘bout Barley bein’ too much horse for me and t-that it might be best to get me a gentler colt…”

Arms tightened around Applejack’s body. “When didja hear that?”

“A couple of weeks ago,” Applejack admitted. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop b-but y’all were talkin’ loud in the kitchen…”

“Oh hun,” Pear Butter murmured, “I ain’t gonna sell him if he means this much to ya. Plus, you’ve shown you can handle him. I think he’s good for you.”

Applejack nodded. “Please don’t sell him,” she repeated. “I love him…”

~~~🍎~~~

Angry droplets pattered against the window, enraged by the blowing winds that almost seemed to shake the entire building.

Applejack sat at her desk, the light from her laptop screen being the only thing keeping the room from being in complete darkness. It was far, far into the night, but she just couldn’t find herself able to sleep. After an hour of staring at the ceiling and trying to drift off to no avail, Applejack had decided to just get out of bed and sit at her desk. Just about the only good thing about being in a wheelchair was that there was no wasted space on chairs for her to use.

The freezing November rain was always the worst part about the early stages of the upcoming winter. The rain would fall and freeze, making the ground nearly impossible to traverse. Even worse, it was hard on the livestock. She really really hoped the windbreaks would stay up through the rainstorm and that the cattle and horses were well protected.

In the meantime, she couldn’t worry about that. It would be no use worrying. She stared at the webpage in front of her with a passive frown. Her eyes burned from staring at the screen, but she still just didn’t feel sleepy.

Her finger rolled the scroll wheel on her mouse. Images of horses with numbers and names beneath them flooded her vision. A bay colt, eight hundred. A roan mare, one thousand. A gray gelding, fifteen hundred. She kept scrolling. A buckskin stallion, three thousand.

She paused. The stallion had a name beneath the picture. “Laurel,” she read aloud. She clicked on the link and was brought to a different page with more information about the horse. “Sired by Greased Lightning, blah blah, won a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in the PRCA over six seasons. Huh. Not bad.” Applejack closed the page. “But not quite what I’m lookin’ for.”

Barley had a more impressive pedigree than Laurel. She went back to the page and kept scrolling.

Chestnut mare, two thousand. Black gelding, five thousand. She was getting there. Palomino gelding, eight thousand. She clicked on his page. His name was Gone Fishin’, she chuckled, and his pedigree checked out for the price.

Applejack sighed and shook her head. How could anyone buy a horse from a picture, anyway?

She closed the tab and switched to the auction site she’d been looking at earlier. She’d found it amazing that people could bid online or through the phone, but the same question urged forward. How could one buy a horse without seeing it in person? There was so much to miss from not seeing a horse. What if it turned out lame? What if it wasn’t as nimble as advertised? What if it was just the wrong horse entirely. Horse sales could be corrupt, after all. There was a chance.

Maybe an auction was a better idea, but then that came with a whole deal of complications. An online sale was the easiest way, but she wasn’t sure it was the right way. In-person sales were tried and true, and auctions were a good way to see a group’s interest. But then, what did she know? Applejack had never sold a horse before. That was Granny’s job after her parents died. That was Big Mac’s job when Granny couldn’t. Applejack had been to sales before, but she’d never been the one putting the horse up for auction.

“Stupid,” Applejack muttered as she put her head in her hands, grabbing angrily at her hair. “Stupid, just plain stupid.” She closed the laptop screen and leaned on the desk with her arms beneath her head.

The rain and wind filled the otherwise silent room.

Applejack blinked slowly. Something was buzzing.

She lifted her head and immediately regretted everything as her entire body—or at least what she could feel in her body—ached. She groaned and looked around despite her neck protesting the movement. The rain had stopped and soft orange sunlight slowly peaked beneath the blinds. She’d fallen asleep.

Stretching her arms over her head painfully, Applejack rolled out her neck as she looked toward the edge of the desk as the buzzing continued. She grabbed her phone and looked at it. The time, being only six seventeen in the morning, was only the first cause of confusion. The second had shown itself via notification.

“Huh? Four missed calls?” Confused and suddenly alert, she unlocked her phone and noticed two of them had been from Big Mac, while one had been from Apple Bloom and the other, interestingly enough, had been from Strawberry Sunrise.

“The hell?” Applejack rolled backwards and turned to face the bed as she decided to call back Big Mac. She brought the phone to her ear as she regretted letting herself fall asleep in her wheelchair. The line rang twice before clicking.

“Applejack!”

She certainly hadn’t been expecting to hear Strawberry’s voice. She shook her head and brought her phone away from her face just to confirm she’d returned the right person’s call. There was no mistake, she had called her brother. “Strawberry? What the hell you doin’ with my brother’s phone? And why’d y’all call me so early in the morning?”

“I was keeping watch on all our phones,” Strawberry explained quickly. “Look, whatever just forget about that. It’s not about me or you right now.”

She sounded genuinely unnerved. Applejack frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Barley colicked. We found him this morning on his side.”

Applejack’s heart dropped to her stomach. “What? What do you mean? Is he okay?”

“I don’t know, we’ve been trying to get him to stand up, but he doesn’t want to do it.”

“H-have y’all called the vet?” Applejack looked around her room as if there was something she could do. Her mind raced with possibilities and she found herself clinging to the ones she didn’t want to think about. “How’d this even happen? Was he fine yesterday?”

“He hadn’t been eating properly since two days ago, but we thought he was just in a mood again,” Strawberry told her. “And yes, the vet is on her way, but she’s coming in from the city and the roads are iced over, so she might be a while.”

Applejack was at a loss. “I… Well, you have to keep tryin’! He has to stand up, or he’ll get worse.”

“Big Mac and your sister are doing their best, but he just isn’t getting up. His heart’s racing, and he keeps trying to roll.”

“Get him out of the damn stall,” Applejack barked, cursing the world for doing this when she couldn’t do anything to help. She bit her lip painfully and ran her fingers through her tangled bangs. “He can’t roll in there – he’ll cast and it’ll be worse.”

“I know! I know.” Strawberry took a deep breath. “We’ll do our best until the vet gets here, okay. We won’t let anything happen to him. I won’t let anything happen to him.”

The world felt like it was falling apart around Applejack. Her hand shook as she gripped the phone tight enough that she thought she might just break it. Her other hand absent-mindedly pulled at the end of her messy ponytail that she’d forgotten to untie the night before. She had to do something. She had to be there. “I have to get home.”

“Are you crazy?” Strawberry shot. “How the hell are you supposed to get here? We can’t come get you, and it’d be crazy to try! The roads are iced over past the city limits.”

“I have to do something,” Applejack growled, combing through her hair, fingers getting stuck and yanking at her scalp. She didn’t even notice the pain. “I’ll find a way, I don’t care if I have to roll my wheelchair through the damn snow myself.”

“Applejack, stay put. We didn’t call you so you’d do something stupid, we called because he’s your horse, and you deserve to know.”

Applejack gritted her teeth and threw her phone on the table before pressing the red button to hang up. She had to do something. She had to do something. Her body hated her for moving so vigorously thanks to her accidental sleep, which only served to infuriate her further. Applejack’s mind raced as she thought about what to do. Her phone buzzed again. She denied the call and turned it on silent, then turned her chair away from the desk.

Thistle. Thistle would know what to do. Thistle would help her. Applejack’s eyes widened as she spontaneously wheeled back around. Her shoulders punished her for that. She couldn’t do anything if she was in pain. Pills first, then Thistle. For Barley.

Applejack chugged water alongside a pair of pills. She knew it was just one that she was supposed to take but she needed to be better as soon as possible. Two wouldn’t hurt. That wasn’t enough to hurt. Applejack shakily picked up her phone and ignored the texts and missed calls and scrolled through her contacts. A goofy picture of Thistle with his tongue out pressed under her finger as she dialed him up.

“Please pick up,” she whispered. “Please, please, please…”

“Hello?”

“Thistle, you gotta come pick me up,” Applejack immediately yelled into the phone, now registering the way her voice shook.

“Woah, woah, calm down. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, b-but Barley isn’t.” Applejack licked dry lips and rubbed her hand on the wheel. “I-I need to get home to him.”

“Your horse? Is he hurt?”

“He colicked.”

“Just that? I’m sure he’s fine, you’re just overreactin’.”

Applejack frowned. “No, I ain’t! He’s on the ground and he doesn’t wanna get up.”

Thistle was quiet for a moment. “Has he colicked before?”

Why was he wasting her time with stupid questions? “Once when he was a colt, but we caught it early.” She growled and shook her head. “Thistle, please. I know you live closer to here than my family. I’m beggin’ ya.”

Thistle sighed. “Fine, fine. But are they gonna let you out? Don’t you have a week left?”

“I don’t give a shit ‘bout that!” Applejack wanted to punch something.

“Okay, alright. I’ll be there in forty-five.”

Applejack cracked the knuckles on her free hand. “Can’t you get here any faster?”

“And risk crashin’? No,” Thistle told her. “I’ll be there as quick as I can, but—”

“I know, the ice,” Applejack interrupted. “Fine, okay, forty-five. I’ll see ya then.”

Before Thistle could say anything, Applejack hung up and held back a scream.

Author's Note:

I apologize if this chapter note doesn’t make much sense. The first time I wrote it, it disappeared. I’m now trying to rewrite it from memory but I had said a lot so...

Well, we’ve got a bit of a shorter chapter this time around. I think it was for the best to cut it off here, it makes the flow a lot better despite being a shorter chapter, trust me.

One of my favourite things to do is write flashback/dream sequences. They’re so fun and I haven’t really done a whole bunch in this story so I’m glad to do one here. This is the first time either of Applejack’s parents show up in the story in any way. Fun.

So, Barley’s got colic. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically abdominal pain. People get it, too, particularly babies (if you’ve ever heard a baby cry from colic, you could gather that it’s very painful). It’s not usually a big deal and can be prevented, but it can be deadly if it worsens. In horses, it’s very common because it can be triggered by many different things like a change in feed, change in routine, drinking too cold water, and temperatures dropping. Like I said, it’s possible to prevent and there are symptoms leading up to it that you can watch out for, but it still happens. When a horse colics, if it worsens, it can be deadly. Winter is a deadly season.

Oh, this is the first time Applejack and Strawberry have talked since they... fought (? kind of?) in the car. She really had to call a woman about her horse, eh?

Anyway, yeah, another uh cliff hanger kind of? Sue me.

Let me know what you thought down below, if you want!


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]