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Applejack: You're a mighty good athlete. Ah'm just better.
Written by Amy Keating Rogers
During a game of horseshoes, Applejack and Rainbow Dash start getting very competitive, debating who's the better athlete out of the two of them. Rainbow Dash proposes an Iron Pony competition to settle it once and for all.
The competition starts out small, and fairly even at first; for every athletic event Applejack wins, Rainbow Dash beats her in another. As the day goes by (and more ponies come by to spectate), Rainbow starts using her wings to win certain events, leading to her winning the competition. Applejack accuses Rainbow Dash of cheating, and then comes up with a new challenge to settle their differences: the two ponies will join the Running of the Leaves, an annual race Ponyville holds where dozens of ponies run through the woods, the resulting vibrations causing the autumn leaves to fall off the trees. She also demands that Rainbow not use her wings during the race.
The day of the race arrives, and Applejack ties up Rainbow Dash's wings just to be extra-sure she won't cheat. To their surprise, Twilight joins the race as well, claiming that she's read enough about racing to know what to do. Dash and Applejack are... incredulous.
Dash: "What'd you read, The Egghead's Guide to Running?"
The race starts (with Pinkie Pie and Spike commentating on the action), and for a while, Applejack and Rainbow Dash seem to be tied for first, with Twilight moving at a leisurely pace far behind them. However, after each one trips over a couple rocks in the path and fall behind, they each consider playing a little dirty to get back in the lead. Rainbow Dash changes the road signs so Applejack will go the wrong direction, Applejack hitches a ride on the Twinkling Balloon Pinkie and Spike are in, Rainbow eventually unties her ropes, etc. The two are neck-and-neck as they reach the finish line and eventually tie...
Pinkie: "For last!"
Yes, focusing on their own rivalry instead of the race didn't work out as well as they thought. (By comparison, Twilight came in a respectable fifth place by pacing herself, and then sprinting near the end.) Princess Celestia suddenly arrives on the scene, having come to see the race, and our characters learn their Aesop about not letting competition get the better of them. Celestia points out that there's still a lot of trees with leaves still on them, and Applejack and Rainbow Dash decide to finish the job with a friendlier run through the woods.
- Absentee Actor: Rarity, and to a somewhat lesser extent Fluttershy, both appear briefly but don't say anything.
- Assumed Win: Neither Applejack nor Rainbow Dash.
- As You Know: Pinkie Pie providing exposition about the Running of the Leaves.
- Awesomeness By Analysis: Twilight enters a race having never run one before, but having read all about it. She earns a respectable 5th place because of it. And in a way that rather makes sense as well. All she did was pace herself while everyone else ran the entire way, then made her move once everyone else was worn out.
- Big Ball of Violence: Eventually, Rainbow Dash and Applejack get into this at the end of the race.
- The Big Race
- Blowing a Raspberry: Rainbow Dash does this at least three times.
- Cavalier Competitor: Twilight doesn't take the race as seriously as Applejack and Rainbow Dash do.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Played straight in the end when their cheating ends with them both in last place. Justified because, as Twilight Sparkle points out, since they were trying so hard to cheat each other, everyone else had a pretty easy time getting ahead of them. Herself included.
- Though Rainbow Dash wins the Ironpony despite quite blatantly cheating at several events.
- Aint No Rule against using wings.
- Though Rainbow Dash wins the Ironpony despite quite blatantly cheating at several events.
- Chekhov's Skill: A minor example; one of the Iron Pony contests involved bouncing a ball consecutively without dropping it. Rainbow Dash won easily.
- Similarly, there's a competition to see who can kick the hardest, which Applejack handily takes.
- Competition Freak: Pretty much the basis of the two's Escalating War.
- Dark Pony Victory: Despite Rainbow Dash and Applejack being the strongest competitors, the Escalating War between them causes them to tie for last.
- In a subversion, Twilight Sparkle walks up to them wearing a medal, and Dash and Applejack assume she came in first place, before she admits that she only came in fifth place.
- Deadpan Snarker: Twilight Sparkle, as usual, has a few snide remarks concerning the two rival's bickering.
- Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: Both Applejack and Rainbow Dash. And for once, it actually puts them both significantly behind everypony else. For most of the episode, it doesn't occur to them to worry about anyone besides each other.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Rainbow's "Get it? Eye muscles?" line.
- Escalating War: The race between Rainbow Dash and Applejack soon degenerates into a match to see who can cheat the other in a more outrageous way. The show being what it is, they tie for last place, though that's more because they were so concentrated on each other they didn't realize everyone else had passed them.
- Evasive Fight Thread Episode: Applejack and Rainbow Dash compete to determine which of them is the most athletic pony in town. We still don't know, since they wear themselves out trying to stop each other from winning the race.
- Exact Words
Rainbow Dash: What the hay?! You said no flying!
Applejack: No, I said no wings!
- Feud Episode
- Foreshadowing: Applejack was time penalized for bumping a barrel during the obstacle course, an act repeated in the intro to season 2 episode "The Last Roundup", and the likely reason she didn't come in first there either.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Rainbow Dash exclaims "Horse apples!" There are plenty of horses and apples around, but it doubles as an appropriate euphemism for "Shit!"
- Graceful Loser: Applejack, at first is complimentive and good natured about Rainbow Dash's wins. After the latter starts using more sneaky methods of winning however, she becomes much more defensive about it.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: When Applejack lets go of the tug-of-war rope.
- Horse Racing: Pinkie Pie's announcing is strongly influenced by typical horse race announcing, what with "out of the gate," "neck and neck," "by a nose," and "It's Applejack...It's Rainbow Dash...It's Applejack...It's Rainbow Dash!" The Call to the Post plays as the race is getting started. And what other kind of race starts with a bell?
- Large Ham Announcer: Spike believes in this trope wholeheartedly.
- Loophole Abuse: The rules of the Iron Pony competition never said Rainbow Dash couldn't use her wings.
- Ludicrous Precision: Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie: But Rainbow Dash won't let Applejack have it, and takes the lead; she's ahead by half a nose! Or maybe three-quarters of a nose! No -- about 63.7% of a nose! (Spike stares at her) …Roughly speaking.
- Obvious Rule Patch: After Rainbow Dash uses her wings to win the Iron Pony competition, Applejack insists on adding a "no wings" rule.
- One-Sided Hoof Wrestling: Rainbow Dash wins with ease, which is odd considering the last time they hoof-wrestled, they seemed evenly matched. Then again, we never saw the end of it.
- Pun-Based Title
- Road Sign Reversal: Rainbow Dash flips the sign marking the path for the Running of the Leaves, sending Applejack off the track. She hastily flips it back when she hears Twilight Sparkle coming, to keep from being caught.
- Second Place Is for Winners: Twilight Sparkle is glad to have made 5th place. After all, as she says, it'd be odd to get first place on her very first try.
- Shave and a Haircut: The apples fall on Rainbow Dash's head to this rhythm. The "two bits" part comes after Fluttershy updates Applejack's Iron Pony competition score.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: Pinkie Pie, several times while announcing.
- Shout-Out: Twilight's race number is 42. Rainbow Dash also insinuates that Twilight reads "The Egghead's Guide to Running".
- Sore Loser: Rainbow Dash is a self proclaimed one. Applejack is eventually embittered into one.
Rainbow Dash: I - hate - losing.
- Synchronized Swarming: When Rainbow Dash hides from a swarm of bees, they form a "?!" before flying away.
- Talking to Herself: Considering Applejack and Rainbow Dash are the primary focus of the episode, Ashleigh Ball is definitely earning her pay.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Spike, being chosen as the rider for the rodeo contest between the two rivals.
Spike: Why me?...
- Title Drop: The first half of the series' title by, who else, Pinkie Pie.
- With My Wings Tied: One of the stipulations Rainbow Dash and Applejack agree to in the race is that Rainbow Dash has to have her wings tied down.
- Worthy Opponent: Even within their extremely aggressive competitive streak, it's obvious AJ and Rainbow Dash see each other as this.