Hi Tracy. Only once have I let someone take a horse out on a trial , and that was because she was such an odd horse, I wanted to make sure that the owners really liked her. I gave them two weeks, during which time I didn't cash their check for the full amount. They also signed a sales slip when they took her, so they owned her. It was a "gentleman's agreement" that if they hated her, I'd take her back . We spoke on the phone frequently, and at the end of two weeks they loved her and kept her.
I have also found that most sellers won't do that kind of thing. They want to sell the horse, or then they have to run more ads, etc. At any rate, when I try a horse these days, I am a whole lot more cautious than I used to be. If you want the horse for trail, be sure that you get a chance to try it on the trail while at the owners place. Make sure it does the things you will expect the horse to do. Like walking across water, bridges and mud, stepping over logs and poles (which can be a huge problem). Put the tack on the horse yourself and see that it doesn't try to kill you when you do that. If you want the horse to walk down a busy street, see if it can go by cars. One interesting thing I have learned....look at the horse's tack. If the buckle holes are all shredded on the halter that the horse wears all the time, that means, he may pull back very hard when tied. Maybe he can't be tied. Be sure that the horse will let you touch his feet and lift every foot up. Consider the thought of getting
the horse in and out of a trailer before you take him home. What if it takes him an hour, do you still want him? Things like that. Really think about what your routine is, and what your expectations are, and try him out. You may also video him when you check him out, walk him and trot him like a soundness exam, and ride him. Show it to your horse buddies. Get their opinion. Take someone with you if you can. Pay them if you must. Go see the horse twice, or three times.
Good luck to you, and hope your horse turns out wonderful.