Neither of my hunt horses had hunt experience although I fully intended to hunt them when I purchased them. One was a show horse, did childrens and adult ammy jumpers for many years, the other was a western pleasure horse that had a short show career followed by broodmare status.
What I looked for specifically was 1) intelligence 2) athleticism 3) a strong sense of self preservation (related to #1 perhaps?) 4) handiness/ surefooted 5) a strong presence or aura of self confidence.
Took a gamble and it really paid off. They are both exceptional hunt horses and I really really enjoy riding them both. One I bought from a H/J trainer, the other from a breeding farm.
At the Hunt Horse STORE!!! Silly girl!!
Now see I read this differently from ya'll. I saw where do you "go shopping to buy stuff "for your hunt horse!! WELL, I'm blessed to live where there are a plethora of tack shops outa this world...like Horse Country! But my horse is so special; I got shopping at Safeway for her Carrots, the apple orchards for apples, the co-op for feed & supplements, TSC for lytes/vits/salt blocks. Mostly my horse prefers not to go with me when I shop for her. She gives me a list and I obey!
I am, afterall, here to serve!!
I go looking in fields. Some of the best hunt horses I've ridden have been field mutts with no identifiable breeding and little previous training. I look for trail experience, self-preservation, bravery and active gaits. If you have a nice, active trot and a half decent conformation, most likely it will jump enough to hunt. Either I just found a nice hunt horse, or I didn't spend too much and don't feel too bad to cut my losses and get it gone for another purpose.
CANTER. I wouldn't hesitate to call the trainer of the last horse I got at Penn National, Marcia Wolfe. She pulled out another horse that wasn't listed who was drop dead gorgeous. All of her horses were beautiful and pampered.
My first hunter was the 2yo paint I had bought to be a show hunter and just ended up being doing a little bit of everything and started hunting at 8.