Meet Donas, Equine Star of ‘Outlander’

OK, maybe not “star,” but supporting actor at least. Susan Strickler gets the horsey scoop on the new Starz series Outlander, based on the best-selling book of the same name.

Top photo: Outlander’s main characters, Jamie and Claire, riding Donas.

From Donas via celebrity equine translator Susan:

Hello Horse Nation! This is Donas, Jamie Fraser’s beloved horse from Diana Gabaldon’s internationally best selling book, Outlander. What?!? You haven’t heard of me?!? Well, I need to rectify that right this minute.

The 16-part Outlander series begin airing on Starz starting August 9th, and the season premiere was just released on YouTube. This show will be the hit of the year, and not just because I’m in it! It combines historical fiction, a little science fiction, honor, duty, love, conflict, humor and quite a fair bit about a subject dear to us here at Horse Nation — horses!

Outlander follows the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to Scotland 1743. While there, she is forced to marry young warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). A passionate relationship is ignited, leaving Claire’s heart torn between two very different men in two irreconcilable lives. The series is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures TV.

Here’s the official trailer:

I must say, for a human, Gabaldon writes horses extremely well. None of that “wrong” horse vernacular that you often read in non-horse people’s books and immediately laugh at. Nope, she has done her homework. The author credits her husband, Doug Watkins, and late father-in-law, Max Watkins, for her detailed descriptions of horse behavior. When informed of my high opinion of her equine writing, Ms. Gabaldon replied, “I’m very flattered. Always good to get the stamp of approval, direct from the horses mouth!”

Want a wee sample, you say?

“Mild strain,” I said, after a cursory inspection. “What did you do?”

“Fell off,” Jamie said succinctly.

“Off the fence?” I asked, teasing. He glowered.

“No. Off Donas.”

“You were riding that thing?” I asked incredulously. “In that case, you’re lucky to get off with a strained ankle.” I fetched a length of bandage and began to wrap the joint.

“Weel, it wasna sae bad as a’ that,” said Old Alec judiciously. “In fact, lad, ye were doin’ quiet weel wi’ him for a bit.”

“I know I was,” snapped Jamie, gritting his teeth as I pulled the bandage tight. “A bee stung him.”

The bushy brows lifted. “Oh, that was it? Beast acted like he’d been struck wi’ an elf-dart,” he confided to me. “Went straight up in the air on all fours, and came down again, then went stark, staring mad—all over the pen like a bumble-bee in a jar. Yon wee laddie stuck on too,” he said, nodding at Jamie, who invented a new unpleasant expression in response, “until the big fiend went ower the fence.”

“Over the fence? Where is he now?” I asked, standing up and dusting my hands.

“Halfway back to hell, I expect,” said Jamie, putting his foot down and trying his weight gingerly on it. “And welcome to stay there.” Wincing, he sat back.

“I doubt the de’ils got much use for a half-broke stallion,” observed Alec. “Bein’ able to turn himself into a horse when needed.”

“Perhaps that’s who Donas really is,” I suggested, amused.

“I wouldna doubt it,” said Jamie, still smarting, but beginning to recover his usual good humor. “The de’il’s customarily a black stallion, though, is he not?”

“Oh, aye,” said Alec. “A great black stallion, that travels as fast as the thought between a man and a maid.”

Without giving too much away, I play a pivotal role later in the story. I may not have top billing like The Black, Secretariat or Black Beauty do in their respective books, but I am a force to be reckoned with. I suffer no fools, tolerate no pesky children and I’m as fast as the wind through a Scotsman’s kilt! When the chips are down, I’m there to save the day — big time.

If you are looking for a wonderful book or a new cable TV series to lose yourself in, check out Outlander. New episodes air on Saturdays at 9p.m. ET/PT. You won’t be disappointed. Oh, and look for me, too… I’ll be the big beautiful horse you can’t miss.

Excerpt from Outlander used by permission of the author.

Watch the hour-long season premier:

Go Riding!



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