Throwback Thursday: The White Horse Ranch in Naper, Nebraska

Young woman jumping a horse with no saddle or bridle at the White Horse Ranch, 1953. [RG1714-15]


Giddy up! Today’ s Throwback Thursday photo takes us to the White Horse Ranch in Naper, Nebraska in 1953. Founded by Caleb “Cal” Thompson, the White Horse Ranch thrilled audiences throughout the United States and Canada. As a young man, Cal dreamed of owning a pure white horse. In 1917, he and his brother Hudson found Old King, a snow-white stallion with pink skin and dark eyes. They began a careful breeding program and soon had a herd of 34 white horses, all descended from Old King.

Cal and Ruth Thompson with white colt. [NSHS RG1714-21]


In 1934, Cal met Ruth Hackenberg, who had also always dreamed of her own white horse. They married in 1936 and moved to a ranch south of the Niobrara River where Ruth began training the white horses. Cal and Ruth named the place El Rancho Del Caballo Blanco, but their neighbors called it the White Horse Ranch and the name stuck. From their breeding program came two new registered bloodlines, the American Albino and the American Crème.  In 1937, they opened a riding school for children who not only learned to ride but also guide their horses through spectacular tricks. Their reputation grew and in 1938 the White Horse Troupe began touring the United States and Canada.

Carley Gilbert, age 14, jumping 5 horse (George, Chief, Easy Girl, White Angel, Silver Slippers) Roman style in 1955 at the National T/W Horse show, Shelbyville, TN. [NSHS RG1714-23]


In 1963, Cal died and Ruth, also in poor health, ended the tours, leased out the land, auctioned off the ranch equipment and sold the herd.  In 1989, an ex-student and member of the troupe, Carley Daugherty and her husband Dean returned to Naper to help Ruth restore the ranch and re-open to the public. Ruth passed away in 1990 and the Daughertys oversaw the ranch until finally closing to the public in 2006. [RG1714-15] Karen Keehr, Photograph Curator Nebraska State Historical Society

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