LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — If you were to ask Beatrice de Lavalette she’ll tell you she’s in the best shape of her life.
Training five days a week in the sport she’s dedicated herself to, para-dressage.
“The way I like to explain it is when you see dancing horses. That's what it is,” she said.
The Loxahatchee equestrian said from a young age that horses were a natural fit.
"I started getting interested in horses when I was a kid but all of my family rode so for me it was kind of a normal thing for me to start doing," she said.
De Lavalette said she was primarily a hobbyist rider until all her plans and passion were derailed in March of 2016 during a string of terrorist bombings in Brussels, Belgium.
“Next thing that happens is I’m on the ground. I know exactly what just happened and I remember thinking you have got to be kidding me. I can’t believe this just happened,” she recalls.
De Lavalette was 17 and at the Brussels airport on her way to visit her parents in Palm Beach County when she unknowingly stood close to one of the bombers.
“I made my peace with what happened that day so for me, it was a little piece of my life that redefined my life but didn’t stop it,” said de Lavalette.
Peace didn’t come easily for de Lavalette who had to adapt to life as a double amputee and spinal cord injury survivor.
“As soon as I realized I was going to be okay my first question was when am I going to get back on my horse,” she said.
She found healing in horses and a friend in her coach Shayna Simon.
“For me personally it gives me freedom. I’m able to forget that I’m in a wheelchair and that I don’t have working legs because when I’m on the horse I don’t have that sensation of just being stuck," she said.
After a month in a medically induced coma and years of rehab and physical therapy de Lavalette and Simon channeled all the hard work into a seat on the Team USA Paralympic equestrian team in the Summer Tokyo Paralympics.
Simon said she’s more than impressed.
“It’s been so cool to watch her develop as a young person and a rider and she really started out as more of a hobby rider and now she’s an Olympic athlete so that speaks for itself she’s gotten so good so fast so that kind of speaks for itself and I’m just so proud of her and her horse Clarc.
“Clarc, de Lavalette, and the rest of her team will be making their way to Tokyo in just a few short days first stopping in Germany for quarantine before the start of the paralympic games.
The Paralympic games kick off on the 24 and de Lavalette said win or lose she hopes people can find a positive takeaway from her story.
“There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark you think it is and I know it’s not easy, but sometimes if you find something you really love it’s going to help you find that light.”
And letting that light shine all the way from Tokyo and in Loxahatchee.