Eleven limbs taken postmortem from 10 lame horses were examined by MRI in a low-field 0·27T system designed for standing horses and a high-field 1·5T system used to examine anaesthetised horses. Nine limbs were examined in the foot/pastern region and two in the fetlock region, and the results were compared with gross pathological examinations and histological examinations of selected tissues. The appearance of normal tissues was similar between the two systems, but the anatomical arrangement of the structures was different due to differences in positioning, and a magic angle artefact was observed at different sites in some imaging sequences. Articular cartilage could be differentiated into two articular surfaces in most joints in the high-field images but could generally be separated only at the joint margins in the low-field images. Abnormalities of tendon, ligament and bone detected by gross examination were detected by both forms of MRI, but some details were clearer on the high-field images. Articular cartilage found to be normal on pathological examination was also classified as normal on MRI, but lesions in articular cartilage detected on pathological examination were identified only by high-field MRI. An abnormality was detected on MRI of all the limbs that had abnormal navicular flexor fibrocartilage on pathological examination.