She Lost Both Her Legs in the Brussels Bombing And is Now Competing on Horseback in the Paralympics
It was the spring of 2016, and 17-year-old Beatrice de Lavalette was waiting for a flight when she got hit by the terrorist bombing at Brussels airport.
Along with serious burns and a spinal cord injury, De Lavalette lost both legs below the knee.
Yet she says she wouldn’t be the person she is today if weren’t for those events… and the person is she will be competing as part of the U.S. Para-Equestrian team at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Riding is a passion not only for De Lavalette but for her family as well. She began riding at age 3 and by 12, she’d taken up dressage.
Getting back in the saddle was no easy feat in light of her injuries, but she was determined to do so as soon as she was able. Five months after the bombings, thanks to her grit, determination—and extensive regimens of rehab and retraining—that’s exactly where she was.
“I had no muscle, I was just skin and bones, so being back on the saddle with no sense of balance was really uncomfortable. But with time, I was able to build up the muscle and work on my balance, and it got easier with time,” she told CNN.
Of course, De Lavalette got a lot of help and encouragement along the way—from her family, her friends, the doctors and hospital staff—and from her beloved horse, DeeDee.
Unsurprisingly, De Lavalette was depressed as she tried to come to terms with her injuries. She admits to crying a lot in the hospital until an unexpected visitor turned things around for her.
“DeeDee saved my life,” De Lavalette said in an interview on The Doctors. “My mom had figured out a way to get … DeeDee into the hospital parking lot. I said, ‘Where’s my [wheel]chair?’”
“I went outside in the rain and as I got closer, she came towards me and put her head against my chest. That moment made me decide that I wasn’t going to give up on life.”
It’s taken a great deal of hard work for De Lavalette to get where she is today. Having to adjust to her body’s new normal was, in many ways, like having to learn to ride all over again.
But as her efforts began to pay off, the Paralympics seemed the perfect outlet to showcase her hard-earned skills.
After making her first appearance as part of the U.S. Para-Dressage team in 2020, De Lavalette set her sights on Tokyo, where she’ll be riding an “awesome” 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood named Clarc.
“The reason I’ve gotten to this level of recovery is because of my horses,” De Lavalette told News 4 JAX.
De Lavalette says, “I can’t change what happened, but I can succeed at being me. As I have said many times, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What else is there to say? There are no ‘What ifs.’ I have a new life in front of me,” she says on her website. “What’s important is that I’m alive and I feel that I will do something grand with my life.”
We’d say, she already has.