How a love for animals, sparked the start of a sheep sanctuary for student Abby

May 19, 2020 / Libby Barrett

Open Study College student Abby’s adoration for animals sparked the idea to set up a sheep sanctuary. Now at just aged 22 with the help of her studies, Abby has set up The Same-Star Sheep Sanctuary in Norfolk, already with 11 sheep under her full-time care, several with special needs. Not to mention a handful of rescue chickens and turkeys!

Abby opens up about how animals have helped her through tough times battling depression, and how studying a distance learning course to better her knowledge meant she was able to set up a small animal sanctuary alongside her full time work and busy animal orientated schedule.

The main reason I chose to study a distance learning course was because I knew how burned out I got previously when having to stick to a rigid study schedule.”

In my current job I manage a farm which hosts day services for adults with learning difficulties and there is no way I could juggle that with going to full time college!

Abby didn’t grow up with animals around her, but it was a visit to some stables when she was young that sparked her adoration for animals.

My background isn’t animal orientated at all really. I grew up on a council estate on the outskirts of Norwich where my only friend was our German Shepherd, Celt. No one else in my family had ever been involved in animal care.”

When I was about 5-6 my dad took me to the stables, he was doing maintenance on and I met a horse called Donna. She was big and grey, and I remember clear as day stroking her soft nose and from then on out I was obsessed with horses!

That love carried on when we moved into the countryside and I started riding lessons a few years later. This led me to go on and study level 2 and 3 horse care at a local college.

Like with many of us, balancing a job with studying a full-time course at college can prove difficult. However, with Abby, her passion for animal care meant she took on a lot more than just a job and college, balancing volunteer work as well!

I really enjoyed my studies but in my third year, having taken on full time education, a job on a petting farm, looking after someone else’s horses 7 days a week and doing volunteer lambing work I ended up burning out and I dropped out of college and gave up horses before completing my final year.

After that I regrouped and focused on my work with livestock and ended up being given two sheep as a thank you for my work on a sheep farm.”

animal care

I thought that I’d never love anything like I’d loved horses, but the sheep just completely set my soul on fire! And I haven’t looked back since. My sheep are my whole life now.

With balancing all her full-time work and volunteering, Abby was inspired to study Complete Animal care with us through distance learning.

I actually looked at a few courses before I settled on the animal care bundle. There were various reasons for my choice, one being that I have been out of studying for quite a while so I thought that level 2 would be a nice way to ease myself back into studying before moving onto the level 3 and 4.

I also liked that I didn’t have to pick between certain areas. It incorporates small/domestic pets, livestock and more exotic animals, there even a unit about marine welfare which sounded so interesting!”

When I signed up to the course, the main thing I wanted to achieve was to develop my knowledge and understanding of animal care. I want to be able work with a wider range of animals as well as the ones I’ve already got experience with.”

Animal care

Not only did studying with us help Abby develop her knowledge, it also helped start her ambition to set up a sheep sanctuary!

My ambition for the past few years was to be able to set up a sheep sanctuary, and a few weeks ago I finally opened The Same-Star Sheep Sanctuary.

I currently have 8 sheep under my full time care, several with special needs, plus a handful of rescue chickens and turkeys which I’ve somehow picked up over the years, and my two bunnies who I took on after their owner couldn’t keep them.

Animals and study combined have helped Abby cope with depression. She felt that she wanted to give something back to the animals.

I am so passionate about animals because they saved me. Unfortunately, from a very young age, I have suffered from depression. The sheep and my lambing work really gave me a reason to live and pulled me through some very dark times. To me, the best and only way I can thank them is by saving them.

animal care

Abby’s idea of a sheep sanctuary was sparked by her work on farms. She just fell in love!

I got into livestock by working on commercial farms where the animals are used for food but it didn’t take me long to realise, I wasn’t seeing the sheep the same way as the others did.

The sheep seemed to just show me their heart and I couldn’t ignore it. It was like we could have a conversation without knowing each other’s language and I ended up having a really strong bond with several different sheep and ending up taking a few more home.

Eventually, I’ve become known as the Crazy Sheep Lady and I’m often called out to look at and help injured, ill or disabled lambs.

My latest two, Star and Sparrow, are either side of me as I write this. The love I feel for them and my other animals is just indescribable, I would walk to the end of the earth for any one of them.

We asked why she felt drawn to study with Open Study College.

I actually found OSC but accident! I was doing some volunteer work at a wildlife rehab centre at the time and was looking at courses considering getting a wildlife care qualification.

Eventually, I decided to stick with my livestock and came back to the OSC website a few months after and chose complete animal care. I was looking at a few other distance learning providers at the time but OSC was the only one who actually called me up and seemed genuinely interested in what I wanted to get out of my studies and gave me loads of advice on which courses and various study and payment plans… so I enrolled that day!

Abby encourages others to study alongside their busy schedules.

If you’re considering it then go for it! Everyone can gain something from it, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been working with animals for years. It’s definitely worth the time and it’s so rewarding.

I think the main thing I enjoy about the course is the range of different assessments. It’s not just endless essays like it was back at my old college. I’ve been assessed via posters, guidebooks, leaflets, and essays which is good for me as variety keeps me interested.”

Take a look at Abby’s Sanctuary page here.

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Libby Barrett

As Digital Content Executive for OSC, I'm currently studying my IDM Digital Marketing qualification through distance learning. I absolutely love all things creative and when I'm not at Open Study College, I'm being a complete theatre nerd, performing in panto or amateur productions!

How a love for animals, sparked the start of a sheep sanctuary for student Abby
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