The medical records of 192 horses with septic arthritis/tenosynovitis 1979–1989 were reviewed. Forty-three horses developed infection after an intra-articular injection, 46 following a penetrating wound, 25 following surgery, 66 were foals less than 6 months old, and 12 were adult horses without a known aetiology. Haematogenous infection of a joint occurs in adult horses and should be considered as a differential diagnosis in horses with an acute onset of severe lameness. The aetiology of the infection had a significant effect on the type of bacteria identified by culture. Staphylococcus was cultured from most of the horses that developed infection following a joint injection or surgery, 69% of the horses from which an organism was identified. Horses that developed infection secondary to a penetrating wound frequently provided cultures of more than one organism; Enterobacteriaceae and anaerobes were more frequently isolated in this group. The most common organisms isolated from foals were Enterobacteriaceae; E. coli was identified in more than 27% of the foals. The hock was the most frequently involved joint. Multiple treatments were used over the 10-year period of study. Survival rates were lowest in foals; only 45% survived to be released from the hospital. Survival was greater in adult horses; 85% of the horses that were treated were released from the hospital. Survival was significantly greater in horses with septic tenosynovitis; all 14 of the horses that were treated survived. Survival was not significantly affected by the joint involved or by the type of bacteria cultured from the synovial fluid. Follow-up racing data were obtained for all horses of racing age that were released from the hospital; 56.5% of these horses returned to racing and over 45% of these horses were able to make at least 5 starts. We suggest that if the infection can be eliminated before irreversible damage to the articular cartilage occurs, horses can return to athletic function.