From the Archives: The South Dakota Cowgirl

From the January 2019 Issue

By Emily Krahn

Jenn Zeller works daily to maintain a social media presence that brings awareness to the horsemanship principles that her and her partner Zach Ducheneaux follow at their ranch. Together they run the DX Ranch, which has been breeding American Quarter Horses for 40 years. 

Western ranch

Jenn was born and raised in Texas. She got her first horse at the age of 11, and by the time she was in high school she was traveling to 75 rodeos a year. She received a college scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, NM where she competed in the goat tying, breakaway, and barrel racing. Needing a change, Jenn transferred to Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX where she received a B.B.A. in Marketing. While in college, Jenn started working for a local cowhorse trainer that she had sent a horse to be trained with. He eventually invited her to begin taking on horses with him to train after she graduated. Realizing her true passion for working with and training horses, she began taking on clients for riding lessons and training while working at an investment firm. 

In 2008, Jenn moved to South Dakota after meeting and eventually falling in love with Zach. Soon after embracing the ranching lifestyle, she was put to work photographing all of the ranch’s happenings. She taught herself how to use a DSLR Canon camera and over the next few years, honed her skills to a place that has granted her several opportunities. Photographing their cattle, horses and the landscapes have become another passion of Jenn’s. She explained that, “photography is an outlet for her artistic vision.” By sharing her photographs on social media, she has had the chance to share what living on a ranch is like, as well as advocate for agriculture in general. 

Western ranch horse

Years after she picked up a camera for the first time, Jenn has since shot a campaign for Duluth Trading Company, Bud Light, and Circle Z Guest Ranch. Beyond that, she has also been featured in an Instagram campaign called “#MyStory”, which was designed to highlight women breaking down gender barriers in an often male-dominated field. This opportunity led to her being featured in Oprah’s magazine. Jenn was also named the “2015 Instagrammer to Follow in the state of South Dakota” by TIME magazine. 

All of this has given her a platform to share her western lifestyle with the world. Jenn’s advice to others is: “You don’t need a fancy camera to be a photographer”.

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