Lots of Rainbow Dash and Applejack this time around. Lots of running, too.
A friendly game of horseshoes between Applejack and Rainbow Dash turns sour when Rainbow Dash loses and Applejack claims to be the better athlete. Unable to let that slide, Rainbow Dash challenges her to an Iron Pony competition, which Applejack accepts. They get Twilight Sparkle to act as judge and referee, so Spike makes it his duty to be the announcer, since all their friends showed up to watch. Let the games begin!
The first competition is running around a set of barrels, and Applejack makes good time, but gets a penalty for nudging one of the barrels. Rainbow Dash seems worried, so Applejack gives her some encouragement, and then it's her turn to run. She makes it just one second over Applejack's time, but due to the penalty, she comes out the winner. Next up, a test of strength, with Applejack winning by a landslide, thanks to all her years of applebucking, followed by a Bronco Buck (with Spike as the bronco), won by Rainbow Dash.
attracted quite a crowd. But during the second half, Rainbow Dash starts using her wings more and more, eventually winning the competition by a wide margin. When Applejack calls her out on this, Rainbow Dash reminds her that there's no rule that says she couldn't use her wings, plus she would have won even without using her wings. So Applejack challenges her to a rematch at the next day's Running of the Leaves, a marathon across Ponyville, with just one rule: No Wings Allowed. Rainbow Dash agrees, and they shake on it.
As they head for the race, Spike hopes that he can act as announcer again, but finds the job is already taken by Pinkie Pie. She informs us all that the Running of the Leaves is how the autumn leaves fall in Equestria, and that the race will begin in five minutes. As the other runners warm up, Rainbow Dash struts up to the starting line, where Applejack is waiting for her. To ensure Dash doesn't use her wings in the race, Applejack ties them tightly. Pinkie Pie calls for all racers to take their positions, and Spike attempts to get in on the announcer gig. Pinkie's happy to share the spotlight with him, and has him climb on up into her hot air balloon.
Back at the starting line, Applejack and Rainbow Dash are surprised to find themselves joined by Twilight Sparkle, who is not an athlete in any sense of the word. But since the Running of the Leaves is a Ponyville tradition, she wants to experience it, and she's certain that the books she's read on the subject will guide her to victory, despite Applejack and Rainbow Dash's scoffing. With that, the race begins, and so does Spike and Pinkie Pie's commentary, most of which revolves around Rainbow Dash and Applejack's rivalry, and Pinkie being typical Pinkie, much to Spike's dismay.
For much of the race, Rainbow Dash and Applejack are neck-and-neck, until Applejack trips on a rock. She's certain that Rainbow Dash tripped her, but Twilight Sparkle, trailing at the back, sets her straight. Applejack takes off again and catches up when Rainbow Dash, seeing herself well in the lead, takes a moment to slow to a trot. Once again, the two are too close to call, until Rainbow Dash takes a similar spill. She's sure that Applejack is to blame, even though Twilight is there to point out the true culprit: a stump. Rainbow Dash doesn't buy it, but manages to catch up to Applejack. As they race along, she uses a low branch to trip up Applejack, and doesn't even try to hide it. Seeing that Rainbow Dash has decided to cheat, Applejack cheats right back, using the same branch to fling herself forward and well past Rainbow Dash. She also sics a hive of bees on Dash, but this only makes the grounded pegasus run even faster. Dash evades the bees, and finds one of the signs marking the way, which she flips, sending Applejack up a mountain path. Laughing at her trick, she accidentally covers it when the other racers run by, and flips it back around when she sees Twilight Sparkle coming up. She panics when Twilight points out all the other runners already went by, and makes a break for it.
alerted to Rainbow Dash's trick by Pinkie Pie and Spike, and bums a ride with them back to the front of the pack. Seeing that they're in a maple dripping part of the forest, Applejack kicks over one of the buckets, spreading sticky sap that traps Rainbow Dash. In her struggle to get free, she accidentally ends up slingshotting herself past Applejack, who goes spinning. She spins right into Rainbow Dash, and the two ponies wind up on a rocky ledge, which promptly begins to break up. They ride the ledge down and survive, just in time to be snarked at by Twilight Sparkle. The two ponies take off again, neither one gaining the lead on the other. Finally, the end of the race is in sight, and Rainbow Dash attempts to bump out the competition, but Applejack just bumps back. The two of them continue on, with one grabbing the other's tail when they appear to be taking the lead. When Applejack goes in for another tail-pull, she accidentally grabs the rope binding Dash's wings, pulling it clean off. Rainbow Dash declares all bets off, and heads for the sky. But Applejack manages to tackle her mid-air, and the two become a big ball of violence that eventually crosses the finish line.
As they argue over who actually won, Spike informs them that it was tie, and not only that, but a tie for LAST place. Twilight, it should be noted, managed to get fifth place by pacing herself and making a sprint for the finish at the end. Applejack and Rainbow Dash are utterly shocked that they were beaten by Twilight of all ponies, but she points out that they spent more time "horsing around" than actually running, so it wasn't that hard. Seeing the errors of their ways, Applejack and Rainbow Dash are contrite, which is good, because who should show up, but Princess Celestia! It turns out that fall is one of her favorite seasons, and she was there to see the Running of the Leaves. Which means she saw how badly Applejack and Rainbow Dash behaved. Fortunately, she's understanding about how easy it is to get swept up in a competition (and appreciative that Twilight Sparkle is there to give out the moral: never let competition get in the way of your friendship), and only asks for Rainbow Dash and Applejack to take care of the leaves that got missed thanks to their shenanigans. And so the two ponies take off one more time, this time without any thought of competition.
I gotta say, this was just a 'meh' episode for me. Neither Applejack nor Rainbow Dash is my favorite, so having an episode that almost all them, all the time automatically puts this episode on a lower tier than some others. Plus, all the racing was just kind of boring, even with the antics later on. I also feel that there could have been more done with Spike and Pinkie Pie. Too much of it was just Pinkie being Pinkie, and Spike being "What?", without even trying to really banter with her. We know Spike can roll with it, as evidenced in "Bridle Gossip," so really, there's no reason he couldn't have done a better job.
Furthermore, why did we need Princess Celestia to show up at the end? Applejack and Rainbow Dash were already contrite before she showed up, and it would have been just as easy to have Pinkie Pie point out all the leaves that didn't get blown down. It felt really out of the blue and didn't add anything to the episode. And frankly, if everyone else was running, how is it that the shenanigans of two ponies kept so many leaves from falling, huh?
Doing the wave
Rainbow Dash is a little tied up at the moment