Finding yourself the perfect hunter can make or break your season — and determine how much of your hip flask needs to be consumed before you jump anything.

But with so many hunters for sale, knowing how to sort the wheat from the chaff can be difficult. So what should you be looking for?

H&H’s hunting editor Polly Portwin says: “The key is to be realistic about your riding ability and then to buy a horse suitable for your own standards.

“Don’t go buying a green four-year-old straight off the boat from Ireland if you don’t have the time or the knowledge to make it into a suitable hunter.

“For those who are not quite the riders they once were, there is no shame in admitting that the time has come to rely on a saintly schoolmaster that will try to keep even a wobbly passenger in the saddle and continuously forgive those that have to hang on over a fence!

“As with buying any horse, soundness and conformation are key, and in particular try to ensure the horse at least has good feet — there is nothing more irritating than going across the first muddy field to find your horse has pulled a shoe.”

7 dream hunters for sale

1. ‘Will go side saddle or astride’
Versatile Quality Hunter
Height: 16.3hh
Age: 8
Sex: gelding
Price: £6,000
Selling points? This gelding has been brought on slowly, hunted all last year and is now fit and autumn hunting. He has three good paces, impressive conformation, is light and responsive, a good doer and is great to hack alone or in company. He has a lovely temperament with many admirers and will go side saddle or astride.
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2. ‘Would easily carry a gent across the biggest country’
Super smart hunter and Eventer
Height: 16.2hh
Age: 9
Sex: gelding
Price: £15,000 ONO
Selling points? This gelding is a lovely, upstanding horse who would easily carry a gent across the biggest country. He has regularly hunted with the Middleton, Quorn and Cottesmore and is very brave and careful to gates, rails, the biggest hedges and dykes. He stands at the meet and is good with hounds.
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3. ‘Super safe and unflappable
Super safe hunting cob
Height: 15.3hh
Age: 6
Sex: gelding
Price: £5,500
Selling points? Super safe and unflappable, a genuine nice guy, easy to do in every respect and a pleasure to own. He is a fantastic hunter, would take a novice rider and will have a go at anything. He will stand all day long and is never strong or silly.
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4. ‘A stay out all day horse’
Hunte:Allrounder
Height: 16.1hh
Age: 10
Sex: mare
Price: £4,100
Selling points? This mare is a true old-fashioned stamp. She is straight forward, never kicks and is never lame — she’s a tough as old boots girl. She’s done a bit of everything and has a very willing, kind and generous nature. She’ll go first or last and is not fizzy, but she’s forward thinking. A stay out all day horse.
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5. ‘Mannerly and very brave’
Top Class Hunter
Height: 16.2hh
Age: 9
Sex: mare
Price: £7,000
Selling points? This grade B showjumper has hunted with the Bedale, proving to be mannerly and very brave — she’ll cross the biggest country.
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6. ‘Tez’s forte is hunting’
Amazing Hunting Pony - one in a million
Height: 12.2hh
Age: 11
Sex: gelding
Price: £1,850
Selling points? Tez’s forte is hunting, hacking and pleasure rides; both on and off the lead rein. He would suit a family that wants to do all of these things. He has a very smooth canter to teach a beginner and has taken our daughter from being on the lead rein out hunting to jumping hedges on her own.
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7. ‘A safe and sensible hunter’
16.2 bay gelding - Hunter:All rounder
Height: 16.2hh
Age: 6
Sex: gelding
Price: £5,000
Selling points? This gelding is a safe and sensible hunter/all-rounder. He’s currently hunting hounds, but is equally happy to be ridden in the hunting field. He has the attitude and ability to excel in any sphere. Good to do in all ways.
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NB: Horse & Hound has not checked the accuracy of the claims made in these adverts and cannot be held liable if the information included above is inaccurate in any way

Have you picked up a copy of this week’s special hunting issue of Horse & Hound magazine yet (23 October 2014)? It includes our full hunting directory, a look at the cost of keeping a hunter as well as traditional and modern hunting gear

Read our 10 top tips for buying a hunter

Browse hunters for sale