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Polo competition is a family affair

It was all amateur sportscaster Susan Stovall could do to keep the first names straight Sunday as the polo players raced down the field bumping into each other.

The last names weren’t so difficult; it was Dix, Dix, Dix, Dix and Dix, plus a trio of other surnames.

“Is that Eric, or is that Travis?” the announcer asked.

The action was only stopped at the end of a quarter of play, called a chukkar, so the riders could grab fresh horses at the Harry E. Kent Memorial Cup in Airway Heights. This is the Dix family sport. It’s played at Peter Dix Field.

Suzy Dix is the mother who races headlong with her children, swinging her long-stemmed mallet forcefully and bumping thoroughbreds with her sons, Eric and Travis.

She only stops to get her thigh pads re-taped, or because the official’s horn has blown an end to another chukkar.

“I’m a lot braver with these on,” Suzy Dix said, as hard armor pads, more suitable for football linebackers, are taped to her white denim jeans.

She grew up around this sport, which her father, Peter “Big Pete” Dix, was obsessed with. The patriarch co-founded the Spokane Polo Club on land he owned in 1967.

“Dad died on the field when he was 70. He didn’t think women should play,” Suzy Dix said.

It doesn’t seem like polo existed without the Dix family on a weekend like this, but its roots in Spokane date back to the 1920s or longer, local players say.

The game existed at the old Spokane Fairgrounds. Army Cavalry horses in the area played polo.

But this weekend, the Dix family brings players to town from around the world.

Player Rob Ballard has traveled from Australia. Nicolas Maciel has traveled from Argentina to play in the northwest polo circuit, of which Spokane is part.

Suzy Dix eyes the 300-by-160-yard field where they all play. It is larger than three football fields, and yet so small.

“I think he would have been proud,” she said.