PEI

Islander 1 of 4 Canadians at World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships

Amber Petersen has spent about two decades shearing sheep and woolhandling, and two years ago started getting into the sports competitively. 

'It was a wonderful experience and I had a lot of fun'

'I did two rounds of the woolhandling and the first one had short, dense fleece that was very easy to throw,' says Amber Peterson. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

While Amber Petersen has spent about two decades shearing sheep and woolhandling, it was only two years ago she started getting into the sports competitively. 

In 2017, the Hampton, P.E.I., native won second place in a sheep-shearing contest at the Calgary Stampede. 

It was my first woolhandling competition, so it was a wonderful experience and I had a lot of fun.— Amber Petersen

She was also just one of four Canadians who recently competed at the World Shearing Championships in France, which took place in early July. 

While she didn't compete at the shearing event, Petersen did participate in the woolhandling competition. Woolhandling refers to the act of cleaning and organizing the fleece, once the sheep has been sheared. 

"While the sheep is being sheared you're starting to sort the different pieces of the fleece. And then when the shearer is done with it you take it and you throw it on a table and then you continue to sort … and then, after, there is a specific way to roll the fleece in a nice, tight bundle," Petersen said. 

The art of woolhandling

Petersen first tried her hand at woolhandling when she was 20, while abroad in Australia. She said woolhandling is a female-dominated sport. 

The size of fleece, Petersen said, often varies from breed to breed, which is another factor to keep in mind during the competition. 

"I did two rounds of the woolhandling and the first one had short, dense fleece that was very easy to throw," she said. 

"The other round had a looser, longer style of wool on it and it was much harder to gather and much harder to throw."

In addition to taking size and weight into account during the competition, there's also a particular trick to throwing the fleece. 

Woolhandlers must pick up and bundle the fleece in their arms before preparing to throw onto the table. 

"As you throw it and release it, ideally it lands with the shorn side down and the outside of the wool on top," she said.   

If the fleece falls over onto the side of the table, the woolhandler collects points against her — and points are also collected if the wool folds over on itself, she said. 

Sheep waiting to be sheared. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

The woolhandler with the lowest score wins, Petersen said.

Petersen came in 35th overall at the world championships but she's not letting that stop her. 

"It was my first woolhandling competition, so it was a wonderful experience and I had a lot of fun," she said.  

Now she has her sights set on the next world championship, which is expected to take place in Scotland in 2022.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

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