The chestnut horse called Red knows something is up as Frank Castle backs his truck up to the open barn door.
Tethered to a post just inside, he watches Castle unload the tools of his trade: an anvil, a portable forge, a caddy of pliers and rasps and hammers.
His ears swivel when Castle greets him by name.
Red patiently lifts his foot. Castle goes to work, plucking a tool from the caddy and paring off layers of overgrown hoof to prepare the Quarter Horse for a new set of shoes.
“I like the horses,” Castle says. “I have a lot of clients who are friends. We go riding together.”
He pauses for a minute. It turns out that being a farrier can be a way to work out aggressions, too.
“Pounding on metal is good for those bad days,” he says.
Castle, 55, who lives near Bunkerhill, Mich., worked nearly 30 years at General Motors, in Lansing plants and at the proving grounds in Milford. He was considering two retirement career options: massage therapy or shoeing horses. His daughter Emily, then 14, claimed massage therapy for herself and encouraged him to go to farrier school.
He figured he could at least save money shoeing his family’s four horses. He started shoeing the horses at YMCA Storer Camps near Jackson as a student. Eventually, equine director Tom Brown said, the camp moved away from using student farriers.
“We went to one farrier we could trust,” Brown says.
Now, shoeing the Storer horses is an ongoing, regular gig for Castle, who has a gray beard, wire-rimmed glasses, a knack for storytelling and an easy demeanor with the animals.
“It’s kind of like painting the Brooklyn Bridge,” Brown says. “Once you get finished at one end, you start again at the other.”