That's very encouraging, thank you! Yes, as I said, he was more sure-footed than the dude horses I've been riding (well, especially more so than the percheron I'd been riding most recently, poor guy). And he did well on our ride tonight, especially considering he hasn't been ridden much lately.
You are certainly looking at your purchase with much more intelligence then many others I've followed. You seem ready to buy your first horse but seem to be looking with your head, and not your heart.
I would look further into the 3rd horse. I'm concerned about the crow hopping on the first horse. I've owned a few cold backed horses that would give a little crow hop before they warmed up but it went away.
I don't like the description of horse #2.
Horse #3 sounds like my current mare, Bonnie. I got Bonnie because the newbie owner couldn't handle her and when Bonnie decided to go home at a faster pace then she could handle, she bailed off and broke her wrist - went up for sale right then. Bonnie bobs her head in a bit so I went to a bosal and she is perfect in it. She will cross anything without giving it a second thought but, like the horse you described, prefers not to walk down a trail in the middle and will go straight when the trail turns unless you steer her to the turn. For a while she looked like a drunken horse because she would wonder and I'd have to steer her back. However, after nearly 4 months of a lot of trail riding, she has gotten quite a bit better. BTW, she is not for a novice rider because she will take advantage of them without giving it a second thought. For an experienced rider, she is very responsive and trustworthy - she just needed confidence in her rider.
As was mentioned before, this is a good time to buy a horse because many people are unloading rather then carry them over the winter. The problem with that theory is that it is usually the backyard newbies that are doing that because a true horseman with a good horse will still be riding in January.