Each new Helovian year begins with the chill of Frostfall. Days are short and nights are long during this season, causing cold weather to pervade the lands. Most equids and wildlife struggle to survive during these icy months, growing thick coats or hibernating. Foals born during this harsh season are usually sickly and often suffer from birth defects. Frostfall storms sweep across the landmass, leaving ice and snow in their wake.
Predators: Due to a lack of prey, predators that do not hibernate (i.e. cougars, wolves, coyotes, lynx) grow more vicious and dangerous. In their hunger, they will hunt larger and more dangerous prey (such as Helovian residents). Non-pack animal, like cougars, will sometimes band together to hunt for a meal. The young, elderly, and sickly are the most at risk from these attack.
Snow/Ice: Ice is a major concern during Frostfall, as it can coat the body, make surfaces slick for walking, and pack in the hooves. Thickly grown winter coats layered with ice predispose characters to hypothermia. Slick, icy ground is treacherous for transversing and can easily cause carless individuals to break limbs or strain tendons. Hooves packed with ice often lead to bruises and soreness, though the numbing quality of ice can mask injuries until they are greatly exacerbated by use.
Blizzards: Intense Frostfall storms can escalate into blizzards, which have sustained high winds. It is not uncommon for blizzards to last from hours to days. They not only lay down snow and sleet, but the winds also blow existing snow, leading to whiteout conditions with no visibility. Due to the cold winds, hypothermia and frostbite are serious concerns in this weather.
Avalanches: In areas with any appreciable elevation change, avalanches are an impending threat. Usually occurring after serial freeze-thaw conditions, these massive slides of snow, rock, and debris are extremely dangerous and often strike with little warning. In more mountainous regions, avalanches can be triggered by characters or animals walking across large snowpacks, burying them alive and causing destruction below.
Hypothermia: Hypothermia (or a severe drop in body temperature) is an insidious threat during Frostfall, gradually taking victims who are exposed to the elements or unprepared for cold weather. Beginning with shivering and confusion, it progresses to stumbling, extreme confusion/stupor, and finally death.
Frostbite: Affecting distal extremities, frostbite usually affects those who spend extended periods of time exposed to the cold elements (such as in blizzards). Starting with itching and pain, it will progress to blistered skin and finally dead tissues (needing amputation). The ears, muzzle, and distal limbs are most often affected.
Snow blindness: Snow blindness is a painful, temporary loss of vision due to extended exposure to ultraviolet rays (essentially 'sunburning' the eye). This will most commonly affect those in higher altitudes, where the sun's light is strongest; but it may also affect any who spend too long looking over snow in sunny conditions. Depending on severity, blindness can last anywhere from hours to days and may have permanent effects on vision.
Starvation: There is a substantial lack of forage during Frostfall, thus all animals are subject to starvation. In equids, the lack of food can lead to stomach ulcers forming as well as other intestinal blockages/upset.
Thirst: Since most water sources are frozen over, many will resort to eating snow to remain hydrated. However, cold body temperatures may prevent one from being able to stay entirely hydrated this way. Also, some snows may contain bacteria that cause illness when ingested.
Following the freezing, lifeless chill is Birdsong, filled with warming temperatures and abounding with new life. Equids and wildlife alike begin to regain whatever vigor was lost in the colder months as snow and ice give way to muddy (but rich) soil. Foals born during Birdsong are the healthiest and most robust of any season, with fresh grasses available to enrich mothers' milk. Light rain showers pervade the land late in the season, providing water sources additional to snowmelt.
Mud: The snow melt and thawing, especially in the beginning of the season, leads to an overabundance of mud. This can lead to slipping, as well as coating limbs and bellies. Skin coated with mud for too long can become soft, easily rips, and is prone to fungal or bacterial infections.
Pollen: The return of trees, plants, and flowers causes a plethora of pollen to fill the air and leave a film on the earth. While necessary to allow for plant life, this surplus of pollen can lead to allergies (also known as "Heaves" in horses), making it difficult to breathe.
Insects: As the snow and ice thaw, insects that were dormant become active once more. Biting flies seek blood to reproduce while mosquitoes are abundant due to the excess of moisture on the land. All other sorts of flying pests also fill the air, causing itchy bites and other irritations.
Monsoons: The change of the season marks a shift in the seasonal winds, bringing intermittent, but intense, rainstorms that sweep across the land. If not careful, one may be trapped by swelling rivers or lakes during these intense downpours (sometimes dropping feet or meters of water), especially when compounded with snowmelt.
Mudslides: Melting snow and intermittent rain leads to very muddy, moisture-laden soils. In areas with any kind of elevation change, this can lead to a loosening of soil and resultant mudslides. Extremely dangerous, mudslides turn earth into liquid-like sludge, wiping out life of all kinds in its path.
Grass Founder: New shoots of grasses and shrubs are filled with sugars and nutrition. However, the abrupt change from Frostfall's sparse forage may overwhelm a horses' intestines, which (through complex biological pathways) lead to severely painful hooves (also known as laminitis). If not careful, this can be a deadly disease, so soaking hooves in ice or snowmelt will greatly help with the pain!
Parasites: A return of life also means a return of intestinal parasites, especially since all life is voraciously eating the newly growing food. Many dormant eggs begin hatching, sometimes causing stomach aches or general illness. An overload of parasites will lead to dull, shaggy coats, a skinny body, and a pot-bellied appearance.
Fungus: Birdsong's general moistness creates the perfect conditions for fungal growth. Not only in the environment, but also on the body. Continually wet skin makes it prone to to fungal invasion, causing 'rainrot' (or where the skin becomes crusty, itchy, and flakes off).
Thrush: Contnatly wet soil and conditions makes the hooves continually damp. This leads to a condition known as 'thrush,' a smelly white bacterial infection of the feet. Though not extremely dangerous, it may make hooves tender and sensitive.
Shedding: Thick winter coats begin to shed as the season turns closer to Tallsun's heat. This leaves many coats looking messy with clumps of long and short hair.
As days grow longer, they bring the heat of Tallsun. Lake and streams shrink and dwindle, while foraging becomes dry and sparse. These drier conditions make it harder for mares to birth healthy foals. Equid coats grow thin and sleek beneath the sun's sweltering rays, causing a general look of health despite the heat. Little rain or precipitation falls during this season, leaving the earth dry and suitable for fires.
Insects: The season's dryness causes insects of all kinds to seek out any kind of moisture, especially from eyes, nostrils, lips, and even blood. This provides a constant annoyance all parts of the day, and many horses will stand side-by-side, rump-to-head to use tails to swat away bugs. Continually biting can lead to open sores, and insects also will worsen pre-existing injuries by biting, irritating, and laying eggs in wounds. They make wounds more likely to become infected.
Heat: Tallsun's long days bring intense heat, which can cause an assortment of issues. It also leaves hides slick with sweat and stained with salt. Remaining hydrated during hot spells can be a challenge.
Fires: The heat drying out Birdsong's abundant growth, providing an abundance of kindling for fires. A rouge heat-lightning strike or a poor use of magic can set off an conflagration that sweeps across the land. Fires are deadly and swift, often trapping unsuspecting animals in a fiery death. They also smolder for days and can spread by 'jumping' with the winds. Even those clear of the flames may suffer from smoke inhalation.
Flash floods: Tallsun's desiccated soils can easily get overwhelmed by a single, intense storm. This can cause sudden, intense flooding that may happen in a matter of moments. These quick and unexpected deluges overwhelm riverbanks and sweep away any and all life near its rushing water.
Anhidrosis: Intense heat causes sweat; however horses that sweat too much for too long eventually lose the ability to do so. This is called 'anhidrosis' or 'non-sweating.' The inability to sweat is quite dangerous, making a horse prone to overheating. Remaining in or near water sources as well as avoiding being active in the hottest parts of the day will help avoid this dangerous condition.
Overheating: Overheating, also known as hyperthermia or sunstroke, occurs when the body exceeds tempertaures compatible with life. In Tallsun's hot, dry days this can easily happen, leading to dizziness, confusion, seizures, and death.
Sunburn: Usually affecting only those horses with palely pigmented skin, the intense sun rays can cause severe burns on exposed skin (such as on the muzzle and around the eyes). Redness, tenderness, and blisters are all hallmarks of intense sunburns. Mud, dirt, and shade all act as natural sunscreen to protect the skin.
Hoof Bruising: The dry weather and soil leech moisture out of hooves, making them very hard and brittle. This not only makes them easier to crack and break, but also makes them prone to bruises from any hard or uneven surfaces. While painful to walk on, hoof bruises usually heal within a week.
Days begin to shorten, bringing relief from Tallsun's heat. A few, intermittent storms replenish some of the water loss in the previous season, though it is obvious the land is preparing for the impending, intensely cold Frostfall. Trees shed their leaves, shrubs become dormant. This lack of nutrition makes it even more difficult for mares to produce healthy foals, and they are likely to be born with sickly. As the Helovian year begins to come to an end, life slowly slips into a sleep for the cooler months.
Predators: As with Frostfall, the decline of available prey can cause predators (bears, wolves, etc) to grow more vicious and dangerous. In their preparations for the cold months, they will hunt larger and more dangerous prey. The young, elderly, and sickly are the most at risk from these attack.
Falling Leaves: Orangemoon's vibrant color change is be beautiful. However, the dead leaves are full of tannins that can ulcerate the mouth, stomach, and intestines. The mass of leaves on the ground do provide for comfortable resting places; however they are also the favored nests of snakes, ticks, and other crawlers.
Hurricanes: The changing temperature from warm to cold causes an upheaval in air currents, leading to circular and rotating storms known as hurricanes. Hurricanes come with intense winds and pelting rains. Those near the coasts will experience storm surges while those inland may experience flooding. These dangerous storms may leave destruction in their wake.
Impaction Colic: The dying vegetation leaves dried hays and grasses left for foraging. Eating this dry foodstuff without drinking enough water (as the cooler weather reduces thirst) can lead to painful blockages of horses' intestines. Drinking more water or finding oily foods to eat will aid in passing such blockages, but they can be excruciating.
Parasites: The shift from life to dormancy affects parasites as well, their larva looking for bodies to encyst in during the cold winter. This can cause mild intestinal upset, but otherwise only affects horses in Birdsong when the larva and eggs begin to grow once again.
Hoof Abscesses: The shift from dry, hot weather to cold, damp weather makes hooves prone to painful abscess. These pockets of pus in the hooves are from trapped bacteria, and are agonizing to walk on. However, they usually only take a few days to 'pop' out of the hoof's wall and generally do not have lasting effects.
Shedding: The sleek, shiny Tallsun coats begin to shed out as thick, long winter coats grow in beneath them. While not nearly as uncomfortable or scruffy-looking as the Birdsong shedding, it still can cause a mild itch.