ELVERTA (CBS13) – In Elverta there are a few stars in a place called Tumbleweed, and they’re turning the town around.
There are plenty of familiar faces in the old town of Tumbleweed. Some of these animals have made it to the movies, but what goes on here goes far beyond the big screen.
Sterling was once a top Tennessee walker, but when his owner died from a heart attack, the grand animal was abandoned.
So Loyd Cooper, dubbed The Pony Man, took him in.
“Became one of the most awesome animals for the kids to learn all kinds of tricks,” he said.
Cooper lives at Tumbleweed, creating this tiny town to the tune of the Wild West. He has always trained animals for motion pictures and can proudly say the horse’s face is now a famous one.
“He just automatically did the things we needed him to do. He enjoys it,” said Cooper.
The horse became the model for Maximus in the popular animated Disney film “Tangled.” Gadgets tracked his gestures, mimicking his muscles and moves.
“When you see him sitting down and laying down, all that stuff, he does it all,” said Cooper.
Cooper’s mini horse, Little Joe, is also in the business and can be seen in a catchy Netflix commercial.
Getting them primed for prime time is in Cooper’s blood. His uncle trained Gentle Ben, the bear who’s sweetness turned to stardom in the 1960s.
“He was a bear that I was raised with, kind of grew up with,” said Cooper.
His uncle even taught Flipper his tricks.
Most of Cooper’s animals now are rescues, which also do rescuing of their own.
“I brought Marvin over for a pony ride and I was so impressed with what they were trying to do here,” said volunteer Bill Graves.
Because of a sad set of circumstances, Marvin’s grandpa raised him from a baby. Once his boots hit the dirt at Tumbleweed, he says Marvin went from shy to show stopper.
“The confidence levels go way up, school grade levels go way up,” said Graves.
Not only are these animals teaching kids about kindness and confidence, but there are no frowns in this town. Student volunteers gain strength through Cooper’s Smiles Therapy Program.
Using the cowboy way, Cooper is turning everyone into the star they’re destined to be.
You can book birthday parties, weddings and, of course, pony rides at Tumbleweed. Proceeds go to help fund the Smiles Therapy Program.