It only takes an instant for your life to change forever.
Beatrice De Lavalette was just 17 years old when she was gravely injured in a terrorist attack while standing in line at Brussels Airport in Belgium. She survived the bomb blast, but she lost both of her legs from the knee down.
The teen spent the next several months in intensive physical therapy, working hard to regain her mobility and independence. She credits her family for supporting her and assuring her that life would go on during those dark days. One loved one was especially helpful in her recovery — DeeDee the horse.
Beatrice grew up in an equestrian family. She started riding when she was just a kid, competing in dressage by the time she was 12. When her therapist brought DeeDee to the rehab parking lot one day, Beatrice knew her love of horses and riding was the way forward.
“There are no real words to describe that day, but it was the start of my new life,” Beatrice wrote on her website. “A few days later, my occupational therapist drove me to the stables. I was hoisted up onto DeeDee. Someone had to hold onto me, I had no muscle tone or control, but I knew I could do this.”
Eager to get back to her “real life,” Beatrice began the strenuous task of relearning how to ride. Her muscle tone was gone, as was her sense of balance, but she eventually regained the strength to ride without assistance.
In April 2017, Beatrice was finally able to return to competitions at a para-equestrian show. Now, six years after the accident that almost killed her, Beatrice was selected to represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo!
DeeDee has retired from competing, so Beatrice rode her new horse, a Dutch warmblood named Clarc.
“I’ve had [him] for nine months,” she said. “He’s such a great horse. He is in some sense very supportive. He’s a hard worker. He likes what he does and he doesn’t toss me off […] so I am very appreciative of that.”
The two of them earned fifth place in the grade II individual category and sixth in the freestyle!
“[My being here shows that] literally anything is possible,” she said. “I know it’s kind of the usual thing to say, but it’s true. Anything is possible if you just put the hard work in and have a dream. Just go for it.”
Beatrice now sees the bombing as “a blessing in disguise, as well as kind of a nightmare.” She knows she wouldn’t be the person she is today if it hadn’t happened, and she’s excited to see what her future holds!
Share this story to wish Beatrice and Clarc the best as they strut their stuff in more competitions.
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