A rare breed of horse, considered to be “at risk”, has become the newest cast member of an award-winning County Durham outdoor live theatre event.

Knutsford Cosmopolitan, a majestic grey shire horse nicknamed simply ‘Cosmo’, has been welcomed by the volunteer cast and crew at Kynren – An Epic Tale of England.

He has joined the equine team for the forthcoming summer season of shows on the seven-and-a-half acre outdoor ‘stage’, at Bishop Auckland.

The Northern Echo:

Shire horses have played an integral part in English history and another grey, Aurora, was chosen to lead the late Queen Elizabeth's state funeral procession to Windsor Castle.

Standing at more than 18.3 hands, equivalent to 1.86m, or 6ft 1in, measured from floor to shoulders, Cosmo is in the care of Kynren’s dedicated cavalry team.

Once settled and feeling at home, he will begin his training to become one of the main carriage-driving horses in the outdoor theatre spectacular when it welcomes audiences once again in late summer.

He may also be included in the epic Viking Invasion scene, where a fisherwoman is kidnapped from the village by marauding Vikings.

Horses take centre stage throughout the 90-minute action-packed show, whether riding into battle, jousting, flying flags or pulling carts during pastoral scenes, as audiences are transported through 2,000 years of English history.

Cosmo joins a 100-plus animal cast, including 39 performance horses, sheep, geese, goats, Durham Shorthorn cows, and even a mother-daughter donkey duo.

Kynren’s highly-skilled specialists ensure the equine stars are well-fed, exercised, groomed, dressed to the nines, ridden beautifully and driven to perfection.

The Northern Echo:

Laurie Robinson, director of cavalry and estates at Kynren, said: “Shire horses are known as gentle giants due to their calm and friendly temperament and keenness to work, and Cosmo exemplifies this.

“The whole team has fallen in love with him already and we’re so pleased to welcome him to the Kynren family.”

As well as the expert horsemanship, Kynren audiences can expect magnificent sets, mass choreography, combat, stunts, stunning pyrotechnics and amazing special effects, including water jets and state-of-the-art video projections.

Kynren is performed by a 1,000-strong volunteer cast on the vast outdoor stage on the Flatts Farm site, with the spectacular backdrop of Auckland Castle.

For 2024, there will be a pre-show entertainment experience where audience members will have the opportunity to wander through the authentic recreation of a traditional 9th century Viking village.

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The 90-minute performances, starting in sunset and ending in starlight, will take place weekly on Saturday nights from July 27 to September 14.

Tickets range from £26 for adults and from £16 for under 18s.

Children aged three and under are free when sitting on an adult’s knee.