An investigation of collagen fiber reorientation, as well as fluid and matrix movement of equine articular cartilage and subchondral bone under compressive mechanical loads, was undertaken using small angle X-ray scattering measurements and optical microscopy. Small angle X-ray scattering measurements were made on healthy and diseased samples of equine articular cartilage and subchondral bone mounted in a mechanical testing apparatus on station ID18F of ESRF, Grenoble, together with fiber orientation analysis using polarized light and displacement measurements of the cartilage matrix and fluid using tracers. At surface pressures of up to approximately 1.5 MPa, there was reversible compression of the tangential surface fibers and immediately subjacent zone. As load increased, deformation in these zones reached a maximum and then reorientation propagated to the radial deep zone. Between surface pressures of 4.8 MPa and 6.0 MPa, fiber orientation above the tide mark rotated 10 deg from the radial direction, with an overall loss of alignment. With further increase in load, the fibers “crimped” as shown by the appearance of subsidiary peaks approximately either side of the principal fiber orientation direction. Failure at higher loads was characterized by a radial split in the deep cartilage, which propagated along the tide mark while the surface zone remained intact. In lesions, the fiber organization was disrupted and the initial response to load was consistent with early rupture of fibers, but the matrix relaxed to an organization very similar to that of the unloaded tissue. Tracer measurements revealed anisotropic solid and fluid displacement, which depended strongly on depth within the tissue.