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In conversation with 2 native German speakers I said:

Sie zwang ihr Pferd in die Wiese.

They corrected me with either:

Sie zwang ihr Pferd in die Wiesen.

or:

Sie zwang ihr Pferd auf die Wiese.

"auf die Wiese" is not in question. But their explanation for the other correction was, "in die Wiese" would mean that she was forcing her horse into the ground of the meadow, and to avoid this the plural of meadows is used, giving the picture of a path passing between 2 or more meadows.

But when I queried DWDS for "in die Wiese" I also found examples of the original usage above, such as

Er öffnete das Gatter, ging zwei Schritt in die Wiese hinein und legte sich hin.

as well as others consistent with their correction.

So is there more flexibility in this usage than they suggest or are the examples in DWDS a reflection of yet another level of meaning in this usage? And can this usage, that is, using the plural of the noun to clarify the meaning of "in", be stated in a general way?

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From my feeling, you are right. in die Wiese is perfectly ok to mean "into the (nearby) meadow". The plural would imply that there are multiple meadows and it doesn't really matter which one (e.g. a very large farm). Any listener will be aware that one isn't going into the ground. The word "in" instead of "auf" can be used in this context because on a meadow, there can be quite high vegetation, so that you can literally go into it.

Comparatively,

Sie ritt in den Marktplatz.

sounds wrong, because you can never go into that. Here, only "auf" works.

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