I agree with getting a different bit. Try going back to a simple snaffle and work in the arena, where it is a secure area, to get him to bend and give to the bit before you try to take him on the trail. I don't think that riding bareback would cause a lack of communication if that is how you have ridden him before. Work on getting him supple and responsive to the slightest cue on the bit. Lots of serpentines, half-halts, stops, and backing will help. Also, I would teach him to do a one-rein stop.