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.
Tropes present in this episode (YMMV tropes can be found here):
- Absentee Actor: Rarity appears as one of the alleged spectators for the Iron Pony competition, but immediately disappears and is not seen again.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Midway through their fierce glare off, Applejack and Rainbow Dash burst into giggling after the latter blows a raspberry.
- Anachronic Order: Wasn't it winter two episodes ago?
- 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. This is actually a very common tactic in foot and bicycle races in Real Life.
- 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.
- Captain Obvious: Pinkie Pie.
Pinkie Pie: Despite the name, the leaves do no actual running.
- 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 Applejack and Rainbow Dash's 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.
- Chekhov's Skill: A minor example; one of the Iron Pony contests involved bouncing a ball consecutively without dropping it. Rainbow Dash won easily.
- Competition Freak: Pretty much the basis of the two's Escalating War.
- Dark Horse 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.
- 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
- Friend to All Children: Pinkie Pie invites Spike to help her commentate on the race, after seeing that he wants to.
- 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 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.
Applejack: [irritatedly to herself] Be a good sport, Applejack...
- 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.
- 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 for the Running of the Leaves.
- 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.
- Though considering Rainbow Dash's competitive streak, it doesn't seem impossible for her to train to be stronger than usual. Then again, it could be just luck.
- Painting the Frost on Windows: The Running of the Leaves is another example of how the ponies in Ponyville control the changing of the seasons.
- 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.
- Running Gag: Whenever Spike recaps the Iron Pony competition, more and more ponies arrive to watch.
Twilight Sparkle: Who are you talking to?
Spike: [indicates audience] Them!
- 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.
- 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.
- Walk Through The Camera: At the very end of the episode; when Applejack and Rainbow Dash run towards the camera and then run out.
- With My Wings Tied: One of the stipulations Rainbow Dash and Applejack agree to in the race is that Rainbow has to have her wings tied down.
- Worthy Opponent: Even within their extremely aggressive competitive streak, it's obvious AJ and Dash see each other as this.
- X Must Not Win: By the end of the race, the rivalry between the two seems to have become less about winning and more about screwing the other out of first place out of revenge.
- You Didn't Ask: Rainbow Dash's excuse for using her wings after Applejack complains.
Rainbow Dash: You never said I couldn't use my wings!
Applejack: I didn't think I needed to tell you to play fair!