Cal and Ruth Thompson, 1938
In 1917 twin brothers Cal and Hudson Thompson from West Point, Nebraska, bought a white stallion, “Old King,” and began a breeding program. The breed they developed had pink skin and dark eyes. In the 1930s Cal and his wife, Ruth, bought Hudson’s share of the program and began a registry for the breed, which they called American Albino. In 1938 Cal and Ruth moved to a 2,400-acre ranch near Naper, Nebraska, originally called El Rancho del Caballo Blanco, although it was known by most as White Horse Ranch.
In addition to the breed registry, Cal and Ruth trained the horses and began putting on regular Sunday afternoon shows at the ranch. Over time, they began to perform at horse shows, fairs, and rodeos. Ruth also started a riding school for young people. By the mid-1940s, some of the youths were part of the White Horse Troupe, which performed throughout the United States and Canada, as well as at the White Horse Bowl, a natural arena on the ranch.
Soon after Cal’s death in 1963, Ruth Thompson closed the ranch and auctioned the equipment and most of the horses, though she retained ownership of the property. In 1989, with the help of former White Horse trouper Carley Daugherty and her husband, Dean, restoration of the ranch began. Although Ruth died in 1990 her sister, Ruby Shumaker, continued the restoration with the Daughertys’ help. The White Horse Ranch soon opened for summer tours and on July 5, 1990, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Ruby Shumaker died in 2000, leaving the ranch to her children, Betty Whipple and Bob Shumaker, who generously donated the White Horse Ranch’s archival collections and other memorabilia to the Nebraska State Historical Society.
Ruth Thompson wore this outfit during a White Horse Ranch show called the Liberty Act. Ruth was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1990 for her role in the development and registry of the American Albino horse, as well as for the development of the White Horse Ranch’s training and riding school.
Ruth Thompson and her sister, Ruby Shumaker, made ceramics to sell as souvenirs at the White Horse Ranch.
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A very young White Horse Ranch trouper wore this costume. The White Horse Troupe began with mostly boys, then became coed, and included only girls by 1952. The troupers performed such feats as jumping horses over a convertible, and standing atop five or six horses jumping a three-foot hurdle side-by-side.
Nameplate for White Wings, one of the Thompson’s top show horses. White Wings sired 102 white foals.
Flyer, “Cal and Ruth Thompson Present their Ranch in White . . .” (NSHS RG1714, SFN96479)
White horse ranch figurine (Source: Bob Puschendorf, Lincoln)
These images are from an August 13, 1945 Life magazine article, “Life Visits the White Horse Ranch.” (RG1714.AM)