• Published 21st Aug 2021
  • 708 Views, 95 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.

  • ...
4
 95
 708

Lasso

"Damn it," Applejack muttered as she trudged into the stables. She glared hard at where the white palomino stayed and then glared even harder at the girl grooming her.

Strawberry turned with a sly smile. "Nice to see you, too."

Applejack crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame. "It's noon, why are ya here?"

Petting Whippy's mane, Strawberry maintained eye contact with the blonde. "My horse is here, silly. And I need to come take care of her."

"Didn't ya say you were comin' in the mornin'?" Applejack asked, frowning deeply.

Strawberry turned away, petting the palomino's neck gently. "I got caught up with something. Besides, what does it matter?"

Well, for starters, yer annoyin', Applejack thought. In reality, there was nothing technically wrong with what Strawberry was doing; she was paying to board her horse so she could come at any time that the ranch was open to the public to care for her. The realization made Applejack's jaw clench, so she all but stomped to Barley, who nickered a greeting as Applejack reached for his muzzle through the gate. "It don't," she muttered at Strawberry who stood in the stall next to her.

Strawberry smiled at her horse, petting her along the muzzle. "You know, you may be the worst, but your horse is really nice," she said, not even turning to face Applejack.

"I—the w—what?" Applejack shook her head, sputtering her words. "I mean, I know Barley's a good horse, but whaddya mean I'm the worst? "

"What else could I mean?" Strawberry asked innocently. "You're the worst. I mean it."

Applejack couldn't tell if she actually meant it or if it was some kind of joke or tease… but… "Why would I be the worst?" she questioned, her eyebrows furrowing. Barley shifted his weight between his hooves next to her.

Strawberry walked to the barrier separating them and leaned on it, sticking out fingers as she listed off reasons. "Well for starters, you're always grumpy with me, you're mean to me, you don't even let me try to be nice to you, and you're the only one who thinks I'm a bad person." She frowned as they made eye contact.

Applejack rolled her eyes. "I'm only that way 'cause ya've never been nice to me," she growled. The blonde pushed her hat up her head as she walked closer to Strawberry, glaring at her face. "Ya bullied me in school, made fun'a me, made everyone think I was weird—"

"Hey, I said I was sorry!" Strawberry interrupted.

Applejack ignored her. "—and ya made school hell. Now, I dunno about you, but I don't particularly like the sorts of people that do that kinda stuff."

"Look, I'm sorry, okay?"

"Too little, too late," Applejack growled.

Strawberry crossed her arms, her mouth agape with offended shock. "What do you mean too late? I apologized, like, two years ago!"

"Too little, too late," Applejack repeated, her mouth curved downward into a scowl.

"What? I'm not that way anymore, Applejack!" Strawberry defended, her voice rising. "You'd know that if you let me prove it to you! Why can't you just listen? I've trying to apologize!" Her arms tightened around each other.

“Well, ya must excuse me for not forgivin’ ya if ya continue to act the same way.”

Strawberry waved her hands around wildly. “I don’t! It’s supposed to be lighthearted!”

“Well, maybe ya shouldn’t be mean,” Applejack said, her voice growing strained. “Actually, maybe it’s best if ya plain don’t talk to me, if ya don’t wanna hurt me.”

Strawberry glared at her with a frown, though she looked more hurt than mad. "It's not my fault you won't forgive me."

Applejack bared her teeth, memories flashing through her mind and boiling the blood in her veins. "I can't forgive ya for teasin' me when my parents died!" she yelled, her voice breaking a little.

Strawberry flinched and worked her jaw, though she said nothing and instead opted to look down.

Not wanting to look at Strawberry anymore, Applejack turned away from her. "Even despite everythin' ya did… I thought we could be friends," she whispered, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. "I've known ya since we were little – just about Bloom's age or even younger."

"I know," she responded lowly.

"Why were you so mean to me, Strawb?" she asked, shutting her eyes at the nickname she had used long ago. It felt foreign in her mouth and burned like acid. "We were kids. I needed a friend, 'specially when my parents died, an' you were the only one that'd even talk to me at the rodeos."

Strawberry stayed silent, leaving the room with only the sound of the horse's breathing and Applejack's sniffling. When she figured that Strawberry wasn't going to say anything, Applejack turned, making sure her cheeks were dry. "But ya made fun of me. An' better yet, ya made sure everyone at school did too." Applejack frowned, shaking her head. "Strawberry, we were fifteen. What could I 'ave possibly done to ya to make ya hate me that much?"

Once again, Strawberry stayed silent, averting her gaze from Applejack's demanding eyes. Her mouth twitched as if she were going to say something, but the words never came. Scoffing, Applejack stuck her hands in her jeans, turning away from Strawberry with a scowl. "I dunno what I expected," she mumbled as her frown turned into a bemused grin. "Just get outta here, Strawberry. Go take that ride on yer horse."

Something, probably Strawberry, shuffled behind Applejack as she stared deeply at Barley's colouring. "Wait, Applejack—"

"Just leave me alone," Applejack pleaded hoarsely. "Please, sugarcube, I don't wanna talk right now."

With a sigh, Applejack heard Strawberry step back and open the door to the stall, leading Whippy out. Their steps were synchronized. Applejack turned to look at them, catching them pause at the exit. Slowly, Strawberry glanced over at Applejack and they locked eyes.

"I'm sorry," the redhead whispered so quietly that Applejack had to read her lips to figure out what she had said. Before Applejack could even get mad, they finished walking all the way out of the stables and out of sight.

Though, she did get mad. It took a moment to really sink in, but once she felt that familiar sensation of her body seeming as if it was on fire, she whipped around to face Barley. “Can you believe her, boy? The nerve she has to even think I’d ever wanna be friends with her after all she’s done?”

Barley snorted.

“She’s a darn fool, is what she is. Yup, there ain’t no doubt about it,” Applejack fumed, wiping a hot tear from her cheek that she didn’t know had even formed. Her throat ached from holding in a cry, but she couldn’t help but continue her angered rambling. “Can’t believe she don’t even have half a mind to give a real apology. I mean, seriously Sunrise? Ya can’t even make yer apology seem sincere?” Applejack stomped, clenching her fists into tight balls.

When Barley—being a horse—said nothing, Applejack all but shrieked in frustration. She swung her arms up in the air, turning away from her horse. “Darn it, Barley. I love ya an’ all, but y’ain’t what I need. I need to go to someone who’ll actually talk to me an’ listen.”

The horse did not complain as Applejack left the stables.

~~~~🍎~~~~

“Big Mac!” Applejack screamed as she set foot into the farmhouse.

From around the corner leading to the kitchen, Big Mac’s head appeared through the door frame. “Yup?”

Applejack slammed the door shut behind her. The wood rattled and creaked. “I need to vent.”

Big Mac stepped fully into the living room as Applejack paced angrily. Maybe if she tried hard enough, she would burst into flames. It sure felt like it anyway. The ginger scratched his head. “Uh… yup.”

Wringing her hands, Applejack huffed and puffed, feeling her anger boil over. “Gosh, you know I hate that Strawberry girl, right?”

“Eeyup.”

“D’yknow what she said?” Applejack asked, not waiting for an answer. “She said I was wrong.”

Big Mac crossed the room, walking past Applejack who was busy wearing down the floorboards with her boots. Crossing his arms, he sat on the couch in the living room and faced his sister. "'Bout what?"

"'Bout her," Applejack responded. "'Bout how I been treatin' her."

Big Mac leaned forward, resting his elbow on his knee and placing his chin on the palm of his hand. "Well, are you?" he asked, plain and simple.

Applejack stopped dead in her tracks, spinning around so fast her ponytail came back around and nearly slapped her in the face. "No!"

The sizable young man lifted his arms defensively. "A'ight. Just askin'," he got in quickly before Applejack could explode. "Anythin’ else?”

“She’s so… enfuriatin’!” she hissed, once again making her mark on the wooden floorboards. “She seems to think that just ‘cause she said ‘sorry’,” she mocked, “means that I should forgive’r. That ain’t how it works!”

Big Mac cleared his throat. “Ain’t that how it works?”

Applejack sighed, doing everything in her power not to lunge at the closest living being that wasn’t her dog, which just so happened to be Big Mac. “Not always,” she said sternly. “‘Specially not when you’re Strawberry Sunrise and ya’ve been nothin’ more than a… a… a dick.”

Staying quiet for a moment, Big Mac smirked. “Didja punch her?”

Applejack whipped around. “What? No.” She frowned first, a bit taken aback that Big Mac would even think she’d do that, but then put up a hand in contemplation. “Maybe I shoulda,” she added to herself, wistfully imagining the satisfying slam of her fist against Strawberry’s face. But then she thought about how much trouble she’d get in, and the fact that Strawberry could potentially put up a decent fight, then shook her head.

Big Mac chuckled. “I don’t think that woulda solved yer problem, AJ,” he pointed out. “But I do think maybe she’s got a point.”

Emerald eyes shot venomous daggers at him.

“I know she’s been plumb awful to ya,” Big Mac continued despite the promises of death that Applejack’s eyes spoke to him. “Though, that was years ago. She’s probably changed if she’s tellin’ ya she has.”

“Well, I—”

Big Mac stuck his hand up, shutting her up. “AJ, I think ya just gotta talk to ‘er all nice like,” he suggested. Upon Applejack’s attempt to speak over him again, he shook his head and kept talking. “If ya decide ya don’t like’r still, then that’s that. What’s she doin’ now?”

Applejack looked at the floor, her anger simmering down into guilt. “Takin’ a ride on Whippy,” she revealed with a frown.

“Well, then get on Barley an’ go talk to ‘er.”

He had a point, Applejack had to admit, but going to talk to her immediately would only make things worse. She was still upset and quick to anger, especially when Strawberry was involved. But, a ride on Barley always calmed her down.

That, and a quick expression of her anger.

Waving bye to Big Mac and thanking him for his act of listening and sound advice, Applejack made her way back out, shutting the door with more calm this time. She winced, knowing that Granny Smith would have been extremely upset had she heard how hard she slammed the door shut just moments prior. Thank the Lord for old people shindigs.

Applejack glanced around, mostly to the riding ring and at the pastures beyond. The cattle seemed calm, and more importantly, Strawberry was nowhere to be seen. She knew she had to talk to her at some point, but she wasn’t quite ready. As she once again approached the stables, she peeked inside, hoping that Strawberry hadn’t opted for a short ride. Much to her pleasure, the stalls were empty, save for the horses that sputtered about, looking rested and cared for thanks to Big Mac’s help earlier.

Boots clicked along the wood flooring, some parts covered by stray hay, other parts covered by loose dirt. Applejack approached Barley once again, reaching her hand out to his muzzle in greeting. “Hey, boy. We’re gonna go for a ride, alright?”

As if he could understand what Applejack had said, and in some ways, she knew he could, Barley nickered happily and swung his head. Applejack grinned and stepped away from him to grab her saddle from the front of the stables. Grunting with the effort of carrying the somewhat heavy piece of equipment, Applejack carried the large saddle carefully to Barley’s stall, where she put it on him effortlessly thanks to years of doing it.

She led him outside, ready to go on a ride again. Eagerness practically radiated from Barley as he cantered alongside Applejack, who paused just at the fence. She opened the gate, then held onto the reins with one hand, putting her boot in one of the stirrups. Barley snorted as Applejack boosted herself up and onto the saddle, adjusting in the seat to her comfortable position. With a chuckle, Applejack rubbed his mane. No words needed to be said as she and Barley set on to find Strawberry.

~~~~🍎~~~~

The act was easier said than done, Applejack quickly discovered. She forgot just how much land her family owned; a point crucial to ranching. As she and Barley trotted at a medium pace next to where the cows grazed, Applejack sighed.

Unless Strawberry had opted for a long ride with Whippy, it was too late to find her. Applejack had been searching for the better part of an hour with no luck. She made it nearly from corner to corner of the acres of land she had access to. The only place she hadn't looked in was the forest that expanded off to the side of the property, but she doubted that Strawberry would go in there.

They approached the fence separating the ranch from the forest with a frown, dismay clouding over the blonde. Barley nickered and shook his head, backing away from the forest. Had she waited too long? Perhaps she should have gotten on Barley right away instead of trying to calm down. Applejack was sure, in fact, that Strawberry had to have already gone back to the stables. Possibly even back home.

With a disgruntled groan, Applejack pulled on the reins, forcing Barley to turn as they slowly paced back to the stables. At the rate they were going, it'd take a while, but Applejack didn't mind. Barley loved getting in his exercise.

The horse, who cantered with his head low, suddenly perked up and flicked his ears. Applejack straightened her back and squinted, using her hands to shade her eyes from the afternoon sun. It was hard to see thanks to the brightness, but Applejack barely made out a figure that seemed to notice her as well.

Despite being her goal, Applejack ground her teeth at Strawberry, who backpedaled and turned away, probably pretending to have not seen her. With a shake of her head, Applejack slapped one of Barley's haunches and tightened her legs around his flanks, pushing the horse into a gallop. “Stupid Strawberry,” she muttered. “Of course I saw her.”

Barley galloped hard, but Strawberry sent her horse into a gallop as well, which only served to further annoy Applejack. She pushed her hat down on her head, making sure it wouldn’t fall off, then sat up straight, angling her body against the bounce from Barley’s gallop, and raised her hands to her mouth to amplify her voice. “Hey, slow down!”

Whippy did not falter in her gait as Strawberry mushed her on, now galloping parallel to the cattle’s pasture. Applejack rolled her eyes and reached to the back of the saddle where a length of rope was secured atop Barley’s dock. Unsticking the button, she confidently gripped the lasso and spun it above her head, eyeing her target. Applejack’s tongue stuck out of her mouth as she narrowed her eyes and threw the lasso forward, catching Strawberry around the arms. She pulled slightly, warranting a yelp from Strawberry, who pulled on her reins, getting Whippy to stop. Barley slowed and cantered up next to them.

Strawberry wiggled, caught slightly in the lasso’s grip, before she managed to pull it over her head and threw it at Applejack’s chest. “What the hell, Applejack?” she exclaimed, entirely bemused. “You could have killed me!”

Applejack grabbed the rope and stuck her hands up to her side. “I tried tellin’ ya to slow down, I didn’t know what else to do!”

Strawberry and Whippy turned, each of them giving a snort. “Well, lassoing me shouldn’t have even been a thought,” Strawberry hissed. “And why in the world do you just have a lasso?”

With the lasso now rolled up back into a neat circle, Applejack snorted as she gripped it. “Really? You’re askin’? I’m a rancher. Why wouldn’t I have a lasso?”

The redhead huffed as Applejack followed her with the rope safely stored away. “What do you want, Applejack? You told me to leave you alone, and now you’re…” she waved a free hand as she sputtered, “lassoing me.”

Applejack pressed Barley on so they could ride side by side. “Look, you’re right an’ I’m sorry” she said. “I got mad at ya. But I know now that… I think you’re right.”

Strawberry turned to Applejack and quirked her head. “Oh?” she asked with an almost sly smile.

It was hard to repress the eye roll but Applejack succeeded in favour of wanting to appear authentic. She bit her lip and looked behind Strawberry. There were a few young heifers grazing alongside a pair of calves. Applejack smiled as she cued Barley to stop. “Look, I know it was a while ago, Strawb. But I think I’m done holdin’ that against ya,” Applejack told her, still looking at the field. “I dunno if I’m ready to really try an’ be yer friend ‘cause… well ‘cause it still hurts, if I’m bein’ honest, but… I’m ready to admit that maybe y’ain’t all bad.”

Strawberry approached Applejack, then had Whippy stop next to her. The horses snorted at each other as Strawberry looked at Applejack with a rather strange expression that was somewhere between disbelief and jubilation. “Really?”

Though it still felt wrong, Applejack nodded. “Yeah, I mean it. Though, this don’t mean I like ya,” she reminded her with a grin. “But… but in time, maybe I won’t wanna strangle ya everytime I see ya.”

“Hey, trust me, AJ—”

"Don't call me that."

“—I wanna strangle you too,” Strawberry said with a smirk.

Applejack gazed at her blankly before letting out a laugh and shaking her head. "I'm sure."

Strawberry smiled and leaned forward, resting her arms on Whippy's neck. "So, you're pretty good with ropes, huh?"

Applejack wasn't sure why Strawberry had that teasing tone to her voice. "Well, sure. I can show ya just how good I am if you want."

Strawberry sat back up and coughed. "What? Uh, what?"

Applejack took hold of the rope once again, pointing at the group of cattle. "I like to think I'm good at ropin'," she boasted. "So how's about a little competition?"

Her question hung in the air for a bit until Strawberry wheezed. "Oh! Hah!" she guffawed. "Yeah, okay. Name the rules."

Applejack cocked her head. Why had Strawberry reacted like that? Applejack was only going to show her how good she was with a la—

OH.

The blonde flushed, reaching across to whack Strawberry across the chest with the rolled up rope. "The rules are," Applejack started sternly, "I'll get these two calves to run, then whoever can rope one first wins."

"Uh, okay," Strawberry agreed. "But I don't have a lasso on me."

From the left side of her saddle, Applejack produced another lasso and handed it to Strawberry. "You offend me, Sunrise."

Strawberry felt the rope in her hands, gripping it tightly. Applejack knew that Strawberry wasn't as confident with roping as she was with horseback riding, but judging from past competition, she definitely wouldn't underestimate her rival.

"So, how are you gonna get them to run?" she asked, snapping Applejack from her thoughts.

Applejack grinned in reply before putting her index fingers in her mouth and blew out. A long, loud, sharp whistle echoed through the land, making Strawberry cringe. Applejack turned to her with a smug smile. "Just wait a sec."

And indeed, running across the fields came exactly who Applejack had called. A little brown dog approached, barking and yipping as she approached the two girls and their horses. Winona finally reached them, panting happily and bouncing around Barley's hooves, who reached down to let Winona sniff his muzzle. Applejack leaned back so she wouldn't fall forward while Strawberry scrunched her face.

"Why'd you call your dog?" she asked flatly.

"Winona here's our herdin' dog," she explained. "An' she'll help us get this contest started."

Strawberry pursed her lips and pointed at Winona. "That dog? She's so small."

"But she's the best herdin' dog you'll ever see. Ain't that right, girl?"

Winona barked loudly.

Applejack smiled. "She helps me an' Bloom train for breakaway." The group went to the fence gate, where Applejack opened it and let everyone in. "She gets the calves goin' so we can rope 'em like in competition. Keeps 'em runnin' straight."

Strawberry came to rest next to Applejack and Barley. Winona stood at Whippy's hooves, panting and wagging her tail. "But what about the bigger cows? Won't that be dangerous?"

"Normally, sure, but 'Nona does a good job of scaring' the heifers away first and leadin' the calves in the opposite direction so we don't have an accident," Applejack assured her. "Just trust Winona and trust yourself, alright?"

Strawberry shrugged. "If you say so."

"Okay, good. Now, Winona," she watched as the dog stood firmly, poised for action, "rope 'em!"

On command, Winona yipped and took off, doing exactly what Applejack had described. The older heifers started running in the opposite direction, but before the calves could fully follow, Winona intercepted and led them to the opposite direction, where they ran directly in front of Applejack and Strawberry.

Applejack watched them turn in front of her and signalled to Strawberry, who nodded. "Go!" Applejack yelled as they both set off, swinging their lassos above them.

Barley galloped, closing in on a black calf. Applejack calculated her throw and took her shot, successfully roping the calf around the neck. She forced Barley to a sudden stop with a squeeze of her legs and a pull on his reins, then let go of the lasso letting the calf keep running.

As that happened, Strawberry and Whippy stayed barely a step behind. Strawberry threw her lasso, but it slid off the back of the calf's neck. She hissed something under her breath as she forced Whippy to a stop. Winona barked as she forced the calves to loop around and back toward them where they calmed down and slowed to a stop. Winona panted, her tongue lolling out of her mouth.

Applejack grinned and crossed her arms. "Beat ya."

Strawberry's face was red. "Ugh, well, you've always been better at roping than me," she mumbled. "Besides, you can practice whenever you want."

Applejack rolled her eyes. "Hey now, don't be a sore loser."

"I'm not," Strawberry shot back. "But, I bet I can beat you at a race."

"Oh really," Applejack asked with a dubious glance towards her. "Let's see about that. Here to the stables. First one past the fence wins." She held out her hand.

Strawberry took her hand and shook it firmly. "Deal."

After Applejack collected the lassos, they raced back to the stables. Applejack whooped happily as she urged Barley to go faster and faster, practically standing on the stirrups and keeping herself low and against Barley's neck as she pressed him on. Strawberry and Whippy were at their side the whole time, each pair gaining the lead then losing it. Applejack bent her legs and patted Barley on the neck, exclaiming as they neared the stables. They both crossed the predetermined finish line, then slowed to a stop.

Applejack whooped, practically jumping off of Barley and landing with a thud of her boots. Strawberry wasn't slow to follow suit, and they both stood next to their horses.

"Well, I guess it's pretty clear who won," Applejack said as she stretched her arms.

"Yeah," Strawberry agreed with a nod.

"Me," they both said at the same time before eyeing each other with a squint.

Applejack gawked. "What?"

"What do you mean?" Strawberry shot back. "I clearly won!"

"No ya didn't."

"Yes I did."

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

"Yes."

"It was a tie!" another voice jumped in.

Both girls turned to look at Apple Bloom mid argument. Applejack blinked, then took a step forward with a cocked head. "Apple Bloom? What are ya doin' here? I was gonna go pick ya up."

Apple Bloom rolled her eyes. "Big Mac can drive, you know," she deadpanned. "School ended an hour ago. An' y'all tied."

Applejack glared at Strawberry who glared back. They both harrumphed and turned away from each other. Apple Bloom simply shook her head and walked over to Applejack. "Well, y'all had fun. Why's that? Thought you were mortal enemies."

Strawberry snorted. "Your sister finally smartened up."

Applejack frowned. "Hey!"

The younger girl raised her arms. "I didn't say anythin'. Just got home and found y'all enjoying yourselves, that's all."

"Well, that won't happen again," Applejack assured as she shot a glance at Strawberry, who only laughed. "Now I'm gonna put Barley back. Strawberry, ya better be quiet 'til ya leave, alright?"

"Anything for you, Applejack," she joked.

"I swear. I'll kill ya," Applejack threatened. She turned to Apple Bloom and patted her on the head. "Go do yer homework and we can work on yer barrel racin' after dinner alright?"

Apple Bloom glanced between Applejack and Strawberry, then grinned. "Sure. I'll tell Granny you'll be in soon."

Before Applejack could inquire about the weird look she gave them, Apple Bloom ran away. Shrugging it off, Applejack led Barley into the stables. True to her word, Strawberry was silent up until she left. At least there was that. Apart from being saved from Strawberry's incessant annoying small talk, Applejack was glad she didn't have a body to hide. She wasn't a liar, after all.

Though, she had to admit it. It suddenly felt surprisingly disheartening to stand in the stables alone.

Author's Note:

This one was long WOOH. I apologize if its weird, i wrote most of it just now at 1:30am. Anyway shout outs to Red Parade for helping me out with some of the story beats in this chapter haha!