Couple hosts horse show to benefit church

Nicole Mills has been riding horses since she was 7 years old.

Married for a year and a half, Nicole Mills, 37, and husband, Bradley Mills, 33, live on Barfield road on the Mills Family Farm, which has been in the family since 1935.

The couple has harnessed Nicole's passion for horses into a benefit for their local church, Vanderburg United Methodist, located at 1809 Charlotte Highway in Mooresville.

Nicole is chairman of the witness team at Vanderburg, which encourages members to use individual passions and skills to witness to the community.

When Bradley, a veterinarian, surprised Nicole with a riding arena as a Christmas present last year, Nicole thought the arena would be a great way to bring the community together and offer something for the church.

She decided a horseshow would marry her talents and benefit a cause at the church at the same time.

The entry fees from the horseshow will be used specifically to raise money for a new playground at Vanderburg, which recently launched a preschool program. In addition to the preschool children, other children use the playground and Vanderburg wants to update their playground and make it safe for all community members that use it.

Church members Barb Riter, 72, a Standardbred horse trainer for many years, and Charmaigne Van Rooven, 40, the youth director at Vanderburg, have been helping the Mills' put together the show.

Riter and Mills have secured 35 sponsors that have donated more than $9,000 in gifts and prizes to the show. They focused on a lot of local, family owned business that are being promoted through this event. Vanderburg's youth group will be on site selling raffle tickets, helping with registration and any other jobs that need to be done the day of the event.

"The horseshow started as an event to raise funds to build a playground for the new preschool kids. It has evolved into an event the whole community can enjoy. Several groups in the Shepherd (Elementary School) community including the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Shepherd School and Athletics Association will benefit from the new playground," said Mills.

It is Nicole and Bradley Mills' goal that the show will raise several thousand dollars for the church playground.

Participants will bring their own horses and compete in events of their choosing.

The show will feature 48 classes, from walk/trot events to 3-foot-6 inch jumper events in three riding styles: western pleasure, hunters and jumpers.

A judge certified to judge those events will be coming from Aiken, S.C., to evaluate the contestants. Entry fees are $10 in advance per class and $12 per class the day of the event. A veterinarian will be present on the grounds and a farrier will be on call.

In addition to the horse events, participants and spectators can enjoy vendors that sell things from horse-themed gifts to a mobile tack shop.

Bradley Mills, president of the Methodist men's group at Vanderburg, will help cook along with a caterer and the rest of the Methodist men's group. Proceeds from the concession stand will also go toward the church playground. Hamburgers will be made from the Mills family's stock of farm fresh meats. Additionally, steaks, roasts and other cuts of meat will be available for purchase.

The horseshow is open to the public and free for spectators. Nicole Mills suggests families bring chairs and a picnic blanket so they can fully enjoy the festivities.