Honesty and loyalty give way to competition and distrust, and generosity leads to exhaustion -- and terrific musical numbers.
Episode 13: "Fall Weather Friends"
Down on Sweet Apple Acres, Applejack bests Rainbow Dash in a game of horseshoes. Applejack insists that it's all in good fun (while still gently gloating about winning), but Rainbow's ego is having none of it, especially the implication that Applejack might be the superior athlete.
They decide to find out once and for all, via the only logical approach: an Iron Pony competition. They seal deal with the first of many spit-swears. If the previous episode was fascinated with pony rumps, this one is awash in pony saliva.
Twilight Sparkle (who is unquestionably the superior mathlete) agrees to be the judge and scorekeeper, and Spike anoints himself the announcer, which is always the most fun.
The first event is an obstacle course, which Applejack completes in 17 seconds -- with a five-second penalty for nudging a barrel. This also leads us to what I believe is the first instance of pony cursing. It's not "nudging a barrel," though that does sound filthy.
They both try to remain good sports, but neither does very well as they make their way through the following competitions, including the Bronco Buck ...
... the Pony Ride (which is more of a challenge for Spike than for them) ...
... rope tricks ...
... ball-bouncing, a record Rainbow presumably already holds, and during which rose-dropping spectator Proto-Derpy gives us this episode's Derpywatch ...
... and hay-tossing, hoof-wrestling, and football-punting. By the time they reach the tug o' war, and Rainbow is winning the overall competition by a strong lead, Applejack realizes that Rainbow's ability to defy gravity gives her an unfair advantage.
Rainbow Dash gloats. Applejack objects.
Applejack challenges Rainbow to race her in the following day's annual Running of the Leaves, without using her wings.
Challenge accepted! And sealed with another deliciously gooey spit-swear.
Spike is eager to get to the race the next day, because he's looking forward to being the announcer again -- except Pinkie Pie beat him to it, marking the first time the hot-air balloon from the intro has actually appeared in the show. (The canon-stickler in me has always been irritated by that damn balloon. That's not how Twilight Sparkle and Spike got to Ponyville.)
Pinkie Pie exposits that without the Running of the Leaves, in which the wake of the running ponies blows them loose, the leaves would never fall in autumn.
Two points: Tirst, didn't they just wrap up winter? Yep. But My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is exactly as serialized as it needs to be. The Cutie Mark Crusaders episodes occur after "Call of the Cutie," the Grand Galloping Gala doesn't occur until after "The Ticket Master" and "Suited for Success," and so forth.
Secondly: I'm endlessly fascinated by the how much responsibility the ponies have for their environment. Seasons don't change, rain doesn't fall, and plants don't grow without pony intervention. The show is building itself an interesting world.
To her credit, Pinkie Pie senses that Spike is a little heartbroken about losing the gig, so she offers him the co-anchor slot. He happily accepts, unaware that he's about to become that other guy to Fred Willard in Best in Show. Pinkie Pie will also give us our second "my little ponies" joke in as many episodes, and far from the last.
Less gracious: Applejack and Rainbow Dash when Twilight Sparkle enters the race, armed with nothing but enthusiasm and her book-knowledge about running.
Twilight Sparkle's number is 42. Okay, new theory: Equestria was created by Deep Thought. Explains everything, doesn't it?
The race is on! It's mostly a grudge match between Rainbow Dash and Applejack, and when the former stumbles, she's convinced the latter did it. Twilight objects, and Applejack curses yet again.
Twilight later stumbles, this time over a tree stump, but doesn't believe it when Twilight says it wasn't Applejack's fault. She also gets her own curse in when Twilight points out that she's now last due to spending so much time obsessing over Applejack.
Remember how Applejack and Rainbow Dash are supposed to respectively represent the elements of Honesty and Loyalty? That doesn't make for nearly as interesting characters as the elements of competition and distrust.
In the end, Twilight beats them both, though the episode avoids getting too Aespoian by having her happily win fifth place.
Princess Celestia conveniently arrives so the Shoehorn can be delivered personally: Friendship is more important than competition. Oh, she would think that, wouldn't she?