When Applejack substitutes for an injured Braeburn at the Appleoosa rodeo, a stack of hay bales nearly flattens her and the Crusaders. Sheriff Silverstar finds evidence of a notorious “low-down varmint” outlaw, Trouble Shoes, but refuses to call off the rodeo. The Crusaders want to compete in the rodeo, but Applejack says it’s too dangerous and nearly sends them home. Not doing so is a mistake because the three foals know their rodeo dreams are crushed with an outlaw on the loose; they escape from their foal-sitter into the night, looking for Trouble.
This is a retelling of the familiar tale of the misunderstood gentle giant, mistaken for a monster, who after being persecuted turns out to be good. Trouble Shoes is a horse amongst ponies, and is pretty much the first Equestrian that looks like an Earthly horse, especially his coloration. He is an ungainly klutz, with a love for rodeos and a penchant for causing accidents. These unintentional disasters appear like attempts to terrorize rodeo fans, branding him as an outlaw. All he wants is to work a rodeo, but he’s accepted that his upside-down horseshoe cutie mark is nothing but bad luck. It takes the Crusaders to see him for what he really is: a clown with a talent for making himself look funny.
The story is good, if somewhat predictable, with good characters that have to deal with uncomfortable situations. Look for a soaking-wet Applejack, and later note her expression when her sister isn’t impressed with her trophy. However, this episode is notable for the choice of depicting, arguably jarringly, a recognizable horse, down to the coloring and rounded shape of his muzzle and how naturally his mouth is animated (compared to general MLP ponies). The obviously detailed and well thought-out design choice might be purely aesthetic, or another insignificant creature (like a minotaur or a griffin) to round out the Equestrian fauna, or a bit of world building that might hint at stories yet to come.
What to watch for (and comment upon):
- Many stallions appear in this episode, perhaps more than in any other. Count them.
- Which leg did Braeburn injure?
- Listen for the harmonica and the visual / musical joke about Westerns associated with it. How long did it take you to realize what you just saw and heard?
- Watch for the two-pony mob, a la Frankenstein, with the torch and the pitchfork.
- Which Winnie-the-Pooh character does Trouble Shoes sound like?
- Trouble Shoes was originally named Troubleshoes Clyde on Hasbro’s MLP Facebook Page.
- Watch for Sweetie Belle using her magic as it sputters on. So cute.
- When Trouble Shoes is a colt, at least one of the other colts trying out for the rodeo is a clown in the rodeo clown sequence in the third act.
- If the Crusaders helped Trouble Shoes and ended the mistaken reign of rodeo terror, why are they punished in the end?