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GOURA HILLS—James Wyllie, a fabled Los Angeles equestrian edu- cator, father, and grandfather, died


March 16 in Agoura Hills at age 98. Born March 2, 1919, in Lincoln, R.I,


Wyllie’s remarkable teaching career spanned six decades. He continued to instruct students in the ways of the horse until shortly before he died. From pre- schoolers to senior citizens, Wyllie taught over 65,000 people to ride. Wyllie taught courses at UCLA, Cal-


Lutheran, and for 30 years at Malibu’s Pepperdine University, plus ongoing courses for Santa Monica College. He was fi rm but kind, principled but fun, and never stopped being curious about life. As an Air National Guard pilot during WWII, Wyllie fl ew hundreds of reconnais- sance missions. He married his high school sweetheart Helen (now deceased) and at ended Michigan State College. Aſt er stints as a pilot to Havana and as a Washington, D.C. air traf- fi c controller, the Wyllies moved to Los Angeles. At the Hollywood Arts


Center, Wyllie earned a degree in industrial design, taught by members of Germany’s prestigious Bauhaus Group. An early project was the re-design of Brentwood’s Crestwood Stables, the popular riding hub of David Niven, Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck and Ray Milland. Researching all he could fi nd on horses and their role in society, his intense interest turned into a devoted equestrian life. Wyllie owned Paramount Ranch in its


heyday, where Michael Landon giſt ed him with his “Bonanza” pinto, Cochise. His late- 1950s Pacifi c Palisades riders included local Girl Scout troops, who proudly strut ed their horses in local parades. He taught courses at UCLA, Cal Lutheran and for 30 years at Malibu’s Pepperdine University, plus ongo- ing classes for Santa Monica College. “Jim was not only a great equestrian and stable master, he was a life coach,” said


Keeping Horsepeople informed


James Wyllie, Pepperdine Equestrian Director who taught 65,000 to ride, passes away at 98


Pepperdine’s President Andy Benton. “He was a teacher to so many students, and a surrogate father to many young boys and girls. When they rode with him in those hills, he made them bet er people.” History, art, music and literature accom-


panied Wyllie’s horse management studies. His popular courses were accented with student trips abroad to ride horses from diff erent cultures in Europe, South America, Russia and Asia. “He understood his craſt at a deep, deep level,” remarked Benton. In the 1980s, newly elected President Ronald Reagan, a longtime friend and for- mer ranch neighbor, asked Wyllie to help train his Secret Service agents to ride. Wyllie and his daughter Cheryl,who


taught alongside him for years, trained four of his horses from Pepperdine for the 1984 Olympics Pentathlon. At age 65, Wyllie completed the one-day, 100-mile Tevis Cup


“Jim was not only a great equestrian and stable master, he was a life coach.”


–Andy Benton, President Pepperdine University


Race in 19 hours. His eclectic life was show- cased in the 2010 documentary “Legendary Horseman,” by Malibu fi lmmakers Jennie and Neel Muller. Wyllie blazed trails throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, embodying the Western ideal of horsemanship. His program con- tinues at Malibu’s Saddlerock Ranch. He is survived by daughter Cheryl Wyllie (a dres- sage trainer and Grand Prix competitor, now based in Wellington, Fla.), son Robert Wyllie, daughter-in-law Kathy, grandson Jimmy, sister Jessie Higginson and her husband Bill of Rhode Island. A memorial was held April 15 at Pepperdine’s Stauff er Chapel, followed by a reception at ended by generations of students and friends.


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