OP - I purchased one that was 15 at the time, had everything but the passage. He was sound as a dollar, but was under 30k - he was a TB, not only tall but long in the back. Saint on four legs. He taught me tons, took me from Training level to PSG. Scores at PSG were just shy of silver medal requirements, as he needed more collection. At 20 we opted not to push him to get it. Now at 23, w/ cervical arthritis he can still do THE BEST walk canter transition and would still do a line of 4's, 3's or 2's if I let him. WORTH every penny, and is now teaching a young girl about how to sit straight and quiet. I got lucky, but the ones that can take a joke and also do the work are hard to find.
I *love* this thread because it reminds me of how I felt trying out my schoolmaster, which has reminded me how far I have come in my riding.
My best friend was selling her I1 horse and I was visiting her. I wasn't looking for a horse (I felt I couldn't afford it), and when she suggested I sit on her horse just for fun, I was terrified! Although I had ridden to sort-of second level, I felt that I didn't know how to ride any horse, as soon as I sat on his back. And wow - apparently I had never ridden a forward horse before! The next day I rode in the double (loosely), and did a few flying changes the day after that - bless his heart, all the changes were clean and what a nod to the horse's and my friend's good training.
After that I threw any responsbility to the wind -- she offered him to me at a price way below his value (I still think this was a poor business decision on her part, but she says it was worth knowing where he was going!), and I felt that despite the financial risk, it was an opportunity that would be stupid to turn down.
I trusted him but was still a bit nervous to be riding an upper level horse, for quite a while. Now I've had him for 2.5 years and he is worth every penny. He doesn't do things unless asked correctly, is forward and flashy and likes to show off at shows, but I can get on him and go on a trail on the buckle without any warm up too. At 18, we have had some reoccuring maintaince (never unsound, but often some room for improvement/more comfort). I do sometimes worry that this is from my uneducated riding - but I guess I feel that this is my cross to bare, and I am getting better all the time.
As for advice.... Well, I am a pretty analytical person and try to plan for the future as best I can. To buy my horse, I had to throw some of this to the wind and take quite a big risk - with finances, with riding, with potentially screwing up my friendship if something happened with the horse (did I mention I never did a vet check?!). I think this is one of those times where, despite the money and various factors involved, you have to listen to your gut quite a bit. If it *feels* like the right horse despite perhaps some more practical reasons why it's the wrong horse, don't immediately write it off.
I do completely understand the attached thing, that is why my schoolmaster will never be for sale, so I can guarentee a great retirement when the time comes.