The welfare of animals, specifically horses, is paramount for the newly established 4-H youth group in Manvel, called Team Xtreme, said Natalie Hoelscher, team leader and 30-year riding instructor.

The impact

Hoelscher, along with some of her riding students and neighbors, sought to create a 4-H group in Manvel after hearing about the” alarming” mistreatment of horses in the area, she said.

“It's important to teach these kids ... that this is a living animal,” she said. “They're trusting you to care for them, and they're trusting you to be kind. And that's where the focus needs to be.”

In one of their recent meetings, Hoelscher said she invited a Manvel horse chiropractor to show the group other ways to take care of the animal. The children also lead the meetings and decide their agenda each month.

But just as enriching as the animal care aspect, Hoelscher said, is the opportunity she has had to teach Manvel’s youth to utilize local resources and see them build community with each other.

“What I have found with the kids that are in Team Xtreme right now is that they were really looking for a place to build friendship,” she said. “They want to learn more things rather than focus strictly on competitions.”
The 4-H organization has hands-on programs for children and teens. (Courtesy Team Xtreme)
About the program

4-H is a national program where children and teens complete hands-on projects in fields such as health, science, agriculture and civic engagement, according to the organization’s website.

The Manvel 4-H team was formed in August through a cooperative extension program with Texas A&M, Hoelscher said.

Under the Brazoria County umbrella, 4-H has 500 members in 17 clubs, with specific projects and contests in areas including livestock and robotics, Texas A&M Extension Agent Cassidy Smolik said.

“They all have some type of leadership opportunity, and they’re also getting public speaking knowledge,” Smolik said. “It's all just a big knowledge-based program helping these kids find a place where they belong.”Editor's note: A photo was removed from this article at the request of a minor's parent.