Attempting to set the first women’s solo eight-hour strongwool ewe shearing world record is no mean feat, but if anyone is going to make it happen it’s Marie Prebble. Hannah Park catches up with her to find out more.
Marie Prebble’s passion for shearing and its community is deep-rooted.
And as she speaks of some of the opportunities and joy it has brought her together with the hard work and dedication needed to get her to where she wants to be, it’s clear to see why she has decided to attempt this record.
Marie, a sheep farmer from near Dover, Kent, runs a 93-hectare (230- acre) Ministry of Defence-tenanted farm alongside her father, David.
Home to 500 breeding Romney’s, the farm also sells lamb boxes locally. It was here Marie’s interest in shearing was sparked.
She says: “I remember contractors coming to the farm when I was younger and thinking I’d quite like to learn to shear. They let me have a go, and I quickly got the bug for it.
“I did a course in New Zealand in 2012 and started doing seasons in the UK when I came back.
I loved it immediately.” Marie has worked on a local shearing run for a number of years now, fitting in shearing where she could around farming full-time.
But now, due to a recent retirement, she’ll be taking on the run herself this summer.
With it looking likely that shearers from overseas won’t be able to travel this year amid the current Covid-19 restrictions and the record attempt coming up, she’s set to throw herself into the busy season ahead.
She says: “I’m going to try and find someone to step-in and do a lot of my stock work this year, with the plan being that I can be off-farm shearing everyday through summer to get as much practice as I can.”
Marie has also got involved in shearing competitively both nationally and internationally, which has spurred her passion even more.
“The competition scene is as much about the social side as anything,” she says.
“It’s a really good excuse to get off the farm and connect with like-minded people while working towards improving your own shearing skills.
“It doesn’t matter what level you’re at with your shearing, if you’re committed to doing a good job, you’ll soon earn respect within the industry and a good reputation, which also helps you to pick up work.” So, what was it that spurred Marie into attempting a first of its kind women’s world record? “It’s something that’s been on my mind in the background for quite a long time,” she says.
“But before now I’ve probably held back and never given myself the confidence to talk about it.” Her original idea had been an all-women multi-stand event but this was met with a roadblock when it came to sourcing the number of sheep needed at the standard required for a record attempt.
“There are a lot of rules around the right type of sheep, their size, the right amount of wool and so on, therefore sourcing the number needed is challenging,” Marie says.
“But when the opportunity for the solo attempt came up in discussions following this, I decided to go for it.” Marie’s record attempt is set to take place at the farm of Matt and Pip Smith in Cornwall, where three previous shearing world records have been set.
Marie says: “Matt and Pip couldn’t be better set-up for this kind of thing, I’m humbled that they’ve offered to host the day as their knowledge and experience counts for everything.
“Any shearing record is truly a team effort.” Marie has also drawn inspiration from other women world record holders to date, namely Canadian shearer Pauline Bolay, current eight hour lamb shearing record holder and Kerri-Jo Te Huia, the nine-hour women’s solo ewe record holder.
She also looks to those involved in the four-stand women’s nine-hour strong wool lamb record as some of the individuals who have inspired her to date.
“This is a huge challenge for me, but it’s a lot about mindset and believing it’s possible.
It helps to have the right, positive people around me and with guidance, my shearing will be able to come on to the standard it needs to be at for the day.” Preparing herself physically, but also mentally, for the challenge is already well underway.
“My regime is all devised by my trainer Matt Luxton, who has worked with many other shearing world record holders,” says Marie.
“It’s a unique endurance you’re training for which has different demands to other events, so his knowledge of shearing and fitness combined is invaluable.” Although a pace will not be dictated as it would be if she were trying to break a record, Marie says she’ll be going into the attempt with a target in mind.
“I’ve got my own personal idea of a goal for the day, but it will be realistic to the level I’m working at around the day of the event.” Marie says having a vision of what she wants the day to look like is a motivator for her.
And although the goal is to set a record, for Marie it’s about much more than that.
The fundraising potential of the event is a key element, as is showcasing wool with British Wool being a major sponsor.
Fernhill Farm, Romney Marsh Wools and Romney Tweed will also be among those present, and Marie has sourced 100 per cent Merino singlets for herself and her team to wear on the day.
In the lead up and on the day Marie is raising money for two charities close to her heart.
The Farming Community Network (FCN), a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times is one of the charities she’s supporting.
The other is Reverse Rett, a UK medical research charity dedicated to changing the lives of children and adults with Rett Syndrome.
“FCN has a great understanding of the issues that farmers, farm workers and farming families regularly face and is a network which does some amazing work,” says Marie.
“Rett Syndrome is a neurological condition which most often strikes previously healthy little girls between their first and second birthday, leaving them with multiple disabilities and medical complexities for life.
“It’s a condition I first heard about at a Young Farmers’ talk, but it really hit home after my cousin’s daughter was diagnosed three years ago.
“Thinking about what she goes through on a daily basis will be a huge motivator for me during this record attempt.” Supporting and encouraging other women in the shearing world is also something Marie is incredibly passionate about.
“I hope I can inspire other women who might feel the same to how I have felt on my journey in the industry so far.
“If I can set a precedent and a record, which encourages women in the future to come along and break, I will have achieved what I set out to.
“Women’s shearing worldwide is a huge network. I do feel like a small fish in a big pond but that’s the great thing about the industry.
“If you’re willing to learn and you ask the right people you can go a long way quite quickly. It’s such a supportive, global community.”
Amid the developing Covid-19 situation, Marie and her team are yet to make a decision on whether the record attempt will go ahead on August 4, 2020 as planned.
Until that time comes Marie, a Farmers Guardian In Your Field writer, is continuing with her training regime as planned.
She says: “The situation is out of my hands at this stage.
“But even though I don’t have any control over what the situation will be in a few months’ time, I can control what I do up until that point.
“All I can do is stay focused with my training regime so I know I will still have done everything I can do to be where I need to be physically and mentally.
“We farmers are a tough lot and I think that will have some part in getting through this.
“I’m used to overcoming challenges which has taught me a lot about mental resilience.”