By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — A local teen continues to make great strides on the back of a longtime friend.
Taylor Svenconis, 14, is earning honors for her equestrian talents with her horse King of Spades.
But around the barn, King is known affectionately as Leroy.
Taylor, a freshman at Pinkerton Academy, recently won honors in the Massachusetts Hunter Jumper finals held at Fieldstone Show Park in Halifax.
Along with Leroy, the teen took top honors in the Mini Medal Finals, taking the top prize out of a field of 55 competitors.
"This was amazing and another great achievement in her equestrian successes," mother Tanya Allen said.
Allen said her daughter is truly committed to riding and learning all there is to know about taking care of her horse.
Taylor will be competing in the next two months and has qualified for final competition with three other associations, including the Massachusetts Horsemen's Council Medal Finals, Downeast Medal Finals in Maine, and the New Hampshire Hunter Jumper Association Finals.
For Taylor, it's a successful partnership between rider and horse that has lasted about four years.
It's also a relationship in which she knows Leroy and how he will handle certain competitions and challenges.
Taylor heads to Senator Bell Farm in Chester on a regular basis to retrieve Leroy from his stall and work on her training and riding skills.
Earlier this year, she placed third in a hunter/jumper event, bringing her team to a sixth-place national ranking.
Taylor regularly competes in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine; she has won many awards for her riding talents.
It’s not just Taylor earning the ribbons. Leroy also puts his best hoof forward.
Competitions take up a lot of her time, but she is still a strong student and works hard on her schoolwork.
Taylor also has a strong support system. Grandmother Gloria Svenconis is a regular fixture at competitions, traveling with her granddaughter and offering moral support and financial help.
“If I didn’t have Nana, I wouldn’t be doing shows,” Taylor said earlier this year.
Her grandmother may not be on the back of a horse, but Taylor’s mother said it’s almost like being there.
Nana was right there for her granddaughter's most recent honors.
"Oh, most certainly, Nana was there in tears," Allen said.