goodness, how are people supposed to afford horses? So $650 a month, not including transport, is cheap(on the lower end of the average price here), what should they have paid? Guessing $1000 a month? So three months of lunging at $1000 a shot, then I'm assuming you would say at least 3 months under saddle(correct me If I'm wrong) to get them 'started', in this case just well enough that a fairly experienced rider can take them out on the trail. The OP admitted the horse was worth about $200 before training. So that's $6000 to get a horse to the point it would be considered 'started under saddle', in training alone. When you can buy a barely started horse for 1000-1500. That's crazy.
That's horses? They suck all the money out of you, and you can't sell them for peanuts, ahah.
I guess if it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter.
I think people like Anebel and I expect quite a higher level of competency when we start our horses because they are high-functioning performance animals. Like my yearling who has already been to world championships, can ground drive, and knows how to sidepass from the ground. She's also fitted up so she's less likely to hurt herself and more likely to use the correct muscles once ridden. When I get on her next year, it'll be a breeze (I hope).
But if you're interested in taking a free/$200 cheapy horse and putting in some quick cheapy training to make a cheapy trail horse, then that is totally your option and perogative. And like you said, it's probably not worth it to put $6000 worth of training on a $200 horse. It's probably not worth it to put $1300 in it, I would've just left it out in the pasture until I had more time to do it myself.
But there's a difference between buying a $1500 already started horse, and then taking a $20,000 horse and putting in the $6,000 in training.
So I guess, it just depends on who you are and what you want. Personally, I think the training is the most important part and I would invest a lot of money in it with a reputable trainer - which I don't think this one was, but you always have to be very responsible when you send your horses away and never see them.
I think you should look into some wannabe-trainer teenage girls in your area. They love to ride and break horses for pennies, aha. They'll do it all in your backyard too.