In principle, it’s not much different than most sports.
The object is to score by getting something round into a net. Sound familiar?
The most glaring difference between polo and other sports, though, is the use of horses.
Longtime Spokane resident Pete Dix has had polo in his genes since birth. His father established the Spokane Polo Club in Airway Heights in 1967, and the son has passed the game on to his sons.
Dix’s father suffered a heart attack and died while playing polo in 1982. The club’s field is named after him – Peter Dix Field.
When it’s Pete Dix’s turn to die, he can’t think of a better way to go than how his father passed.
“That would be perfect,” he said.
The 61-year-old Dix, CEO of a construction business, established a charity polo event eight years ago that directly benefits the Ronald McDonald House in Spokane. It has raised nearly $2 million. The eighth event will be Sunday at the Spokane Polo Club. It’s considered the biggest polo charity event west of the Mississippi, Dix said.
“We raised $300,000 last year, and we’ll probably do that again this year,” Dix said.
Dix is proud that his sport has been instrumental in raising funds for a credible charity. He’s also proud that hundreds of people have become acquainted with polo through the event.
The sport has few rules and is easy to follow. A game consists of four or six periods, called chukkars, that are 7 ½ minutes long. The game is played on closely cropped grass on a 300-yard-by-160-yard field. The Spokane Polo Club has two fields, a small practice area and stables for horses on about 27 acres – roughly the size of 10 football fields.
Teams consist of four players riding horses. The horses are changed out after each period because of the strenuous activity of galloping and the many change of directions during the course of play.
The players use what is called a mallet to strike a ball about the size of a croquet ball but not as heavy. The mallets look like golf putters but the head is about 12 inches long. The object is to hit the ball into goals that are 8 yards wide with posts 10 feet high.
“What other sport do you ride a 1,200-pound animal and get up to speeds of 30 mph while stopping, turning and racing after a ball?” Dix asked.
Dix said a typical score of a match is 12-8 with a high score being 18-16 and a low score being 4-2.
The sport was introduced in Spokane, Dix said, in 1913 when Canadians visited the Interstate Fair and played a match. Polo was played at the Fort Wright campus when the Calvary was there.
Polo is considered one of the oldest sports around. It is believed to have started in Persia more than 2,000 years ago. It’s most popular and successful in Argentina. In the U.S., the sport is most popular in Florida, California and Texas.
Dix remains active in the local club that consists of doctors, attorneys, contractors, accountants and real estate agents.
“Most people are done playing by my age and I’m playing less and less all the time,” Dix said. “I’ll continue to play as long as I can.”