Paddock vs Pasture & Pen vs Field: Terms to Understand

If you are new to the horse world, I bet you are seeing your fellas using some odd terms. Aren’t you? It’s okay to get confused and overwhelmed with the number of terms. It would not be possible to list all of them down with all the necessary details, so we have decided to discuss the four most confusing and widely used terms here. We would be discussing;

  • Paddocks
  • Pasture
  • Pen
  • Field

So without further ado, let’s jump into a meaningful discussion;


Paddock is one of the most used terms that most of you might be aware of already. As in this post, we have decided to define the few most commonly used terms in detail so here is what can be taken as a “Paddock”.

  • An enclosed area that is normally used for exercising or pasturing horses or animals
  • An enclosed area to the race track where racehorses get saddled
  • An enclosed area to the race track where horses are paraded and mounted before the race
  • An enclosed field

Other than that

  • An enclosed area to automobile racecourse where racing cars are parked before or after the race

That’s how Paddock is defined in books and on electronic media. However, the small scale livestock keepers and horse enthusiasts define paddock as;

  • A field of any size that is being used or about to be used for farming
  • A small field that is left to keep horses
  • A fenced area where cars or horses are kept or shown before the race

In the United States of America and the United Kingdom, Paddock is recklessly defined as a small enclosure for horses.

The Americans and Canadians strictly try to refer to the enclosed area that is used to keep horses as Paddock whereas, the British do not mind taking the area where racing cars are parked and shown before the race as a paddock as well.

The said enclosed area can easily be judged by the appearance, usually, the paddocks that are situated enclosed to the luxurious barns or professional racetracks have grass grown over whereas some low maintenance paddocks can have dirt or a natural surface.


If you frequently hang out with horse enthusiasts and horse keepers, you might have heard discussing the horse pasture quite often. This another commonly used term is defined in the books as;

  • A grass that is intentionally grown for feeding
  • A grass that can be fed to grazing animals
  • A plot of land that is maintained for grazing

In simpler words, pasture can be grass that is grown specifically to feed livestock; especially horses, cattle, sheep, and donkeys, etc. Or it can be an area where the grass is grown and maintained for grazing.

As you now know, the grasses or plants that can be grazed by the livestock are all can be taken as a pasture, here is what can be referred to as pasture;

  • Timothy grass
  • Meadow foxtail
  • Ryegrass
  • Tall fescue

Timothy grass

Timothy is a perennial grass that is native to the Mediterranean region, Europe. This horse’s favorite pasture is also known as meadow cat’s tail, common cat’s tail, or just timothy.

As per the reports and information we can obtain, this grass is named after an American farmer and agriculturist Timothy Hanson.

Timothy Hanson was the first one to introduce this grass to the world. Timothy grass is a treat to watch, as it is 48 to 150 cm tall, has a dense cylindrical spike-like flower cluster, and the leaves are flat, rolled, and almost hairless.

This common cat’s tail has exceptional cold and drought tolerance so it does not require much from the soil to grow.

Because of its non-demanding nature, it can even be grown in upland or poor sandy soil. Timothy hay is considered one of the best pastures for horses as it is high in fiber and low in protein.

It can be fed to promote good digestion, shiny coat, and bowel regularity. Moreover, it is often recommended to achieve a healthy weight as well.

Pen vs Field

Meadow foxtail

Meadow foxtail is most recognized by its scientific name, Alopecurus Pratensis. Other than that it is also recognized as field meadow grass.

The field meadow foxtail or simply the meadow foxtail grass belongs to the Poaceae family and is native to Europe and Asia. It is widely known and cultivated as pasture and hay in North America and Australia.

The meadow foxtail starts blooming in April and keeps on rewarding our eyes until June. As far as the appearance is concerned, the meadow foxtail’s sheaths are smooth and cylindrical whereas the stem is erect and hard.

Meadow foxtail is commonly spotted growing on grasslands and neutral soils.

Meadow foxtail can also grow on moist fertile soils but waterlogged both light and dry soil are not recommended for its growth. Because of its high nutritional content and flavor, meadow foxtail is valued for hay, pasture, and silage.


Ryegrass is a widely accepted pasture that is grown in almost all parts of the United States. High nutritional content, fast germination rate, and quick establishment are the few reasons why ryegrass is regarded as one of the best pasture options.

The fast germination and quick establishment are not only the two factors that skyrocketed its demand as pasture, the exceptional traffic tolerance, and rapid recovery also have played their part.

Other than being considered the best pasture, it is also planned to establish permanent and temporary lawns.

Ryegrass appears in dark green, has a reddish-purple stem base, tough shiny leaves, and an extensive root system that can help control soil erosion. In fact, Ryegrass is mostly recognized for its glossiness and dark green color.

Tall fescue

Tall fescue, an important forage grass, is native to Europe. Besides Europe, this forgiving grass is breathtakingly common in California, North America, and North Africa. Tall fescue is either planted as a horse pasture or as an ornamental grass in lawns and gardens as well.

This supremely nutritional pasture is admired for its exceptional heat, drought, shade tolerance, and unmatchable disease resistance. Like ryegrass, tall fescue also does not require much time to germinate and establish.

Because of its forgiving nature, Tall fescue is considered the best alternative to the high-maintenance Kentucky bluegrass. As the fertilization requirements are minimal and require less moving.


Most of our readers might be thinking of a fountain pen, well it’s not “actually” that fountain pen. Pens can have walls or fences. A pen is a small enclosed area where animals like pigs, sheep, and some other livestock options are kept. The pen or enclosure can have one or many animals of the same class and family.


The field is not at all an odd term, it is the most known and recognized than the above-mentioned terms. It can be defined as:

  • An open land where pasture or crops are planted. The said open land is often bounded by hedges or fences.
  • Open land that is free from buildings and woods.
  • An open area left for crop or pasture cultivation
  • An area of land that is dedicated to keep animals or grow food
  • An open sports ground covered with grass


Paddocks, pasture, pen, and field are the most used terms. Paddock is an enclosed area that is used for exercising or pasturing horses, an enclosed area to the race track where horses are saddled is also referred to as paddock.

Pasture is “actually” grass that is grown to feed livestock; especially horses. Timothy grass, meadow foxtail, ryegrass, and tall fescue are the few types of grass that can be taken as horse pasture. The pen is another small enclosed fenced area where animals like pigs and sheep etc are kept. Whereas, a field is an open land where pasture or crops are planted. It can also be an open area where animals are kept or food is grown.

Hi, I am Waqar and active in the horse world since 2012. I have MSc (Hons) in Agriculture from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad. I love to solve equine health care issues and note down in the form of research papers. I have written hundreds of equine health care, accessories, names, and history-related blogs. My equine related work is watering a lot of horse-related magazines and blogs.

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