THE ACRYLIC nails are gone, so has the nail polish, their high heels replaced with moccasins.

They don't meet for coffee on a Saturday morning, instead this group of amazing women dressed in black head to a woolshed ready for some hard yakka.

Every Saturday since March this group of professional women have been training hard. They call themselves Women in Wool and their goal is to raise as much money as possible for Farmstrong — a nationwide rural wellbeing programme for farmers and growers to help them live well to farm well.

They have all put in hours of hard work under the expert tuition of Colin Watson-Paul and Pura Smith.

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The women, Emily Pedersen, Kate Boyden, Harriet Partridge, Sue Fowler, Lisa Chadwick, Maureen Chaffey and Kendell Reidy, agree learning to shear a sheep has been "really hard".

"Getting them in the right position at the right time and dealing with an unpredictable live animal is not easy," Maureen said.

"But without realising it you actually become addicted and look forward to Saturday. Sometimes the day goes well, others not so well, but that's all part of learning."

"We are up early ready to catch the van at 7.30am. By the end of the day every part of your body hurts," Emily said.

"I usually get home, have a shower, a couple of drinks, then I'm ready for bed."

It all started last year when general manager of the Hawke's Bay A&P Society, Sally Jackson, was challenged to learn to shear.

She did just that thanks to show shearing organiser Colin Watson-Paul.

Colin said Sally approached him last year to teach her to shear and during the process they talked about other women learning.

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"We thought it would be neat to get some women together so I approached a few people I knew

and before I knew it we had a group of hard case ladies who have done a lot better than I ever thought possible.

"I can't get over the sheeps' bodies after they are shorn. They are not that fast but the sheep end up very tidy.

"To put how well these women have done into perspective you need to remember that it takes a shearer two to three years to learn the ropes properly.

"We have pushed all that into a matter of weeks.

"Most of the blokes in my crew are pretty hard to impress, But these girls have certainly done that, They love them."

Pura Smith, who has shorn all over New Zealand, says watching them grow and improve has been amazing.

"They all have such determination and always put their best foot forward.

"For me shearing comes naturally now but in order to teach I had to go back to the beginning and break it down so that it made sense.

"They have got it down to a reasonable time now."

Maureen says she has a huge appreciation now of shearing as a job and the skill involved.
Sue said she had met a whole heap of neat people "and it makes me feel good to do something for the community".

The women started learning by using a brush and following a pattern.

They don't like scratching the sheep and Emily says she will be mortified on the night if she cuts one. "I don't like them going out not perfect."

Kate says when she was approached to do this she was pretty nervous.

"However the cause being Farmstrong I was keen to be involved. Farming is New Zealand's backbone and our farmers need all the support we can give them to best run their farms while looking after themselves and families too.

"We have the best trainers in Colin and Pura, we are so lucky to have them. Their skills and patience in teaching us are amazing."

All the hard work will come to a head when they compete against each other in a display at the Hawke's Bay Show on October 23. Tickets are $20 which goes to Farmstrong.

The group say they are so grateful to all the generous businesses and individuals who have sponsored them, or made donations to the auction which will also be held on the night. Also their support crew who have been "incredible".

■For more information or to contact Women in Wool, go to their Facebook page, Women and Wool, or Instagram, womenandwoolfarmstrong.